MVR - Round 2
"Mommy! Daddy!" I screamed, as I ran into my mother's arms.
"It's going to be okay, Johnny. Mommy wants you to run from this house. Don't look back. Everything is going to be okay!"
I watched as the sky became swarmed with... metal things, as people were slaughtered left and right.
Dad ran up to me and grabbed my shoulders.
"Son, starting today, you need to go and survive on your own. Listen to that voice in your head. He will guide you. Our great Paladin of War will always be there for you. And so will we. But you need to live. You must!"
I snapped awake, as the lights from the curtains of the run down shack shone in my eyes.
"Gah. Blasted sunlight. Ugh." I muttered, as I shifted off of the couch, making my way to the desk, where I picked up my gun, performing usual maintenance and cleaning.
"You're awake." A woman's voice called out to me. I turned around.
"Yeah. How was your morning, Corey?"
Corey smiled weakly, as she made her way to the living room. She was still in crutches.
"Seeing you grow up everyday is enough to make me happy, John."
Corey noticed the weapon in my hands, and pursed her lips.
"I still don't approve of you playing around with firearms. A 15 year old boy shouldn't be owning a gun."
"That's not up to you to decide." I said, as I strapped the handgun to my belt.
"It's big bro's decision. And he would have wanted me to master it."
Corey sighed, as she poured some coffee into a cup.
"That's the problem. I don't want you to end up like Sparty." Her bottom lip quavered.
"Sorry. Didn't mean to trigger it, Corey."
It has been eight years, since Ben had rescued me from those crazy fools. We had been on the run since then, running from them. And running from Mogul. The entire world had become a wasteland, and in the eight years since the Iron Council invaded our world, mankind did nothing to fight back.
Because there was nothing we could do.
I left the living room and chugged some coffee, as I looked at myself in the mirror.
Corey told me guys turn super hot once they became 24-25 years old. I guess in my case, another ten years?
"Hey, Decen." I muttered, staring at myself. Ever since Ben had rescued me and fought off the entire Iron Council Specialist force on his own, buying time for the rest of us to escape, I had made it a mission to grow strong for his sake. I got myself a razor and began trimming my hair to look like his. A buzz cut. But even so, my face, remained unchanged. Still a kid. Still naive. Still weak.
"It's about to be the 96th month since you stopped contacting me. What's going on, man. I'd really appreciate it if you even showed up to say hi once in a while."
I gripped the sink, as I left the bathroom. This was stupid. I made my way to the med room, to visit my brother.
"Sup, Big Bro." I said, as I sat in front of Ben, who remained catatonic. His face emotionless, as I could still see the servos and components from his body trying their best to come together, but his brain was still missing a huge portion from when Turbo set off an explosive on his face.
My vision flashed to that memory, as I clutched my head.
Go! Get outta here, John!
"No! Ben I can't leave you! Please!" I pleaded, sobbing and trying to grab Ben's leg before Corey ran up to me and scooped me up.
I watched as Ben turned around to try to fight off Turbo, but it was too late, as the more superior cyborg smashed my brother in the side of the face, deforming his metallic endoskeleton and stuffing the charge in the gap. I watched as Ben's eyes widened, realizing what was going to happen. The explosion, tearing and ripping away at both his flesh and his components.
Ben's look of desperation to get me back.
That was what ultimately made me determined to get stronger.
My vision flashed back to reality, at Ben's empty eyes, as he stared at the dusty floorboards. Slumped on the ground. Half of his body missing.
I needed to find more components. If it meant repairing Ben, I'd have to keep killing and hunting those damn Angels one by one. I glanced at the pile of electronics next to us. Pieces of the angels that Corey helped me slay. Even if we had all the tech in the world, was it enough?
I didn't know jack shit about tech. Only Corey knew, and her knowledge of electronics was still limited. After all, undergraduate engineering was as far as her degree took her.
I clenched my fist.
"If only I was smarter. Dammit." I grumbled.
I took out my gun. It was a modified SPARTAN battle pistol, with multiple firing options. Ben's classic and iconic firearm before he ended up like this. I didn't have his power to fuel it, so since then, I'd been using energy cells from fallen Iron Council angels, converting it into a usable form of energy supply. Something like that. Really, it was Corey who made the conversion device for me.
She surely was amazing.
Guess I could sorta see how Ben fell in love with her.
The old version of me woulda found that sort of thing gross. Back when the two of them kissed and made love, I would always close my eyes and to make sure I didn't hear the sounds of "adult playtime". But now, even just hearing the two of them flirt, would make me a little bit happier.
I missed those days of just the three of us and the other Ben.
I went up to Ben and kissed him on the forehead.
"Gotta head out. Gonna go on another hunt. I'll be back for you Ben."
I followed Corey out as she drove on Ben's motorcycle. I held on tight to make sure she didn't fling me off the bike as we raced to a potential Council camp.
"You know the drill. I go in, and cause the distraction. You pick them off at a distance. No doing anything reckless." Corey shouted.
"Yeah." I replied.
I wished she would stop treating me like a little kid. I was after all, stronger than her. I was a Remnant of Decen. She was just an ordinary human being. But Ben would have wanted me to listen to her.
We approached the camp, as Corey got off the bike, planting explosives in the proximity of the camp and lit a flare.
"Hey, Iron Bastards!" She shouted.
The Angels turned to her direction.
"Dispatch Orion and Enya to her position. Most likely a diversion. The rest of us will stay-"
"You're half right, idiots." I said, as I took the moment of their battle planning to shoot them all down with my gun.
Orion and Enya fell flat on their faces, bullet holes in their face as the other Iron Council members turned to me.
"Kill him." The leader said.
It is only when a warrior is backed in a corner, do their true colours show.
That saying, first told to me by Decen himself, then by Ben.
Maybe ten years ago, I would have cowered, and ran to Corey in fear.
But that was ten years ago. The Jonathan Ko now is a different breed.
"Soul Link: Paladin Decen 8%"
My hand extended, as red and black glowing shards replaced the skin. I slammed the ground, creating a Spike Clad shield to block their energy blasts.
I ripped off pieces of the Clad and fed them into the device Corey made, and converted the pieces into bullets as I took aim.
"Get wrecked, BITCHES." I said, as I set my gun to full auto mode, spraying and peppering the Angels with the clad bullets.
The squad stumbled back.
"Foolish. Do you think such human technology can stand in the face of-"
I smirked, and closed my fist. The bullets expanding into massive starbursts of spikes, impaling and killing the Angels as their corpses littered the ground.
One of the members, the Leader, I'm guessing managed to survive, but barely, as he tried to crawl away. But I put my boot on the top of his head.
"You ain't getting away." I said, coldly, as I reloaded my gun, and set it to Charged Shot mode. There was no surviving a Charged Shot point blank.
"Wait. We can... negotiate. Please spare me. Please." The leader pleaded, as I aimed the barrel to his head.
A maniacal smile showed up on my face.
"I love it when they beg. Revenge is the best feeling ever." I said, as I began to squeeze the trigger, when suddenly, Corey ran in front of me.
"John. That's enough."
I paused, looking at Corey.
"What do you mean that's enough? I'm going to kill him, just like I did with the others. We need the parts to save Ben."
"That look on your face. Killing is never a good thing. But what's worse is when you enjoy it. Give me the gun. I'm finishing him off."
I clenched my fist, as I glared at the leader, who began hyperventilating in terror and sobbing. Heaving.
"Before you die. Know this. A member of ASCENSION, who went by the codename, SPART205, fell victim to your people. This man, was my older brother, and is the only family I have left. I watched as you Iron Council bastards tore away at him. And now he's comatose. I'll also let you in on another fact. I am Jonathan Ko, the Fifteenth Remnant of Decen.
"I am the Remnant of War. I don't take lightly to those who disrespect my loved ones. Know that your kind picked a fight with a Paladin's Remnant. I'm coming for all of you."
The leader looked at me in terror as I smiled, pulling the trigger. The angel's head burst into green fluid and tech as I killed the last of the squad.
Corey and I spent the next ten minutes picking up as much tech components as we can, and loading them into the bag on the motorcycle.
"John." Corey said.
Great. Here it comes.
Corey got up and closed the trunk to the bike compartment.
"I know whatever I say won't influence how you live your life. But finding joy in other's suffering is never a good thing. It'll turn you into the very monsters you hate."
I crossed my arms.
"You're not my mother. I don't need to hear that from you."
Corey tensed up as she gripped the handlebars of the motorcycle.
"I... I know." She muttered, as we drove back to the shack.
I watched Corey kneel down in front of Ben and began to inspecting his components, and made modifications to the tech we had in the pile. She occasionally cursed and sighed. Clearly, the frustration was getting to her. But she tried to remain calm.
"John, fetch me the pliers."
I handed Corey the pliers as she tried to pry off the cover to a component.
"Need some help?" I asked. Corey handed me the part as I ripped it off with my bare hands.
"Are all Remnants showoffs?"
"You can say it's a Decen thing." I responded, leaning back and taking the sunset.
"God, you look so much like Ben. From back then."
"Wasn't the Ben from back then like 20 something?"
"22. Yeah. But he had a childish face. Hard to distinguish."
"You miss him a lot." I said.
"What gave it away?" Corey let loose a weak laugh.
"We'll get him back up and running soon. Then he can give you that thing you wanted so badly."
Corey's cheeks flushed.
"John! Such things are extremely inappropriate."
"Come on. Literally it's just the two of us here. And I've seen enough shit to get an excuse. Besides...
"Ain't nothing wrong with wanting a baby. I mean. I don't mind being an uncle."
Corey sighed as she set down the screwdriver. "The last thing I want is my children to see someone like you as an uncle figure."
"Is that a roast?" I joked.
Corey scooted closer to me.
"You're still young, so you don't fully understand it. But Ben and I can't have kids. I don't want my kids to grow up knowing they won't ever see their father again."
"My dad got himself killed and that was how I was born."
"Well, you're different, John."
"I like to use the word special."
I left Corey alone with Ben as I went to my room, putting my gear on the desk and sitting on the mattress.
Another day another batch.
I wanted to feel like I was making a difference but I couldn't tell if what I was doing was working. I could only hope.
Ah shit. I forgot to say goodnight to Corey. That was one of the things Ben wanted me to do.
I got up from the bed and went downstairs, knocking on the door.
"Yo." I said.
"Hey Corey? You in there?"
My heart began to race. Come on. This wasn't happening now. I opened the door.
"Corey, I'm coming in-"
I paused, my eyes full of terror, at what I was seeing.
Ben and Corey, both being carried by a familiar towering orc. A horribly scarred face, and red demonic eyes.
"What... the hell..." I whimpered, as I took a step back. My body trembling as the Prime Aspect regarded me.
AH. THE FIFTEENTH. WONDERFUL. LET US HAVE A HEARTFELT DISCUSSION. LOCATING THE PALADIN'S TWO TIME DISPLACED REMNANTS WAS NO EASY TASK.
I put my hand on my gun, but I suddenly realized. I had no gun.
Mogul smiled at me sinisterly, as I fell on flat on my ass. I wasn't able to move or do anything. Blood leaked from the corner of Corey's face, as Ben was still catatonic. Mogul sat down in front of me.
FROM WHAT I UNDERSTAND, THE SECOND'S PAST SELF WAS ELIMINATED.
I clenched my fists.
Yes. The past self of Benjamin Fong. Corey's Ben, was dead.
It was Ben or me. And Ben made the choice to jump into the reservoir to activate the kill switch and disable the higher functions of the Iron Council Specialists. That was how the older version of Ben managed to fight on par with them, albeit for a brief time.
"Wha... what do you want." I said.
IT WAS MY PREROGATIVE, TO HUNT DOWN THE REMNANTS ONE BY ONE. BUT NOW, I AM CURIOUS. TO SEE IF ALL FIFTEEN OF DECEN'S SPAWN CAN MATCH MY POWER TOGETHER. IN ONE BODY. ONE MIND. ONE FORCE.
"Are you going to spare us then?" I asked.
Mogul regarded Ben, who passively flopped around in his enormous hand.
THAT WILL BE UP TO YOU TO DECIDE, FIFTEENTH.
The house began to rumble, as the roof ripped off, revealing several Iron Council members hovering from the sky.
I stared at the soldiers.
"You and Mogul..."
CORRECT. THE IRON COUNCIL SERVES ME. AS IT ALWAYS HAS BEEN. PROVE YOUR WORTH. IF YOU SURVIVE THIS, YOU DESERVE VENGEANCE FOR YOUR PROGENITOR.
Mogul got up, as the angels surrounded me.
The Prime Aspect dropped Ben like a sack of potatoes, but held on to Corey.
THE LOVER OF THE SECOND WILL BE IN MY POSSESSION. COME FOR HER WHEN YOU HAVE PROVEN YOURSELF. BOTH OF YOU.
A portal formed before Mogul as he stepped through. I finally got the backbone to get to my feet.
"Wait! Give Corey back!"
I ran forward, but an angel materialized in front of me and knocked me through a wall. My back exploded in pain, but I managed to grab the gun on the desk and take aim, firing blasts of energy at the angel.
"Dammit!" I growled, as I ran behind cover.
"Soul Link Paladin Dec-"
My incantation was interrupted as a massive appendage ripped through the wall, nearly cutting me in half. I ran out of the way, but was intercepted by another Iron Angel.
I had to get out of here.
I ran up the steps and tried to blockage myself as I searched for an opening.
Usually, running away is a sign of defeat. But in your case, you need to be smarter with the way you fight. Because you lack combat prowess. Find a way to turn a fight in your favour. Using wits.
If only Ben's teachings covered being outnumbered. I couldn't find a single opening. There was no way to turn this fight in my favour when I'm faced with a bunch of bastards who could outnumber and outgun me. I didn't even have time to summon my soul link.
With Ben in this state, I was the only thing keeping Corey safe, and I let her be taken away by Mogul.
"Dammit, if only..."
I dodged another swipe from an Angel as I retaliated, firing the columns and supports to the house, collapsing the ceiling in on one of the opponents. But it was useless. The Angel brought his arm up and blasted everything away with a black electrical wave. I fell back.
I ran to the side and smashed through a window, pursued by the horde of Angels after me.
"If only I was stronger."
I leapt over the van that Ben had used to try to transport his past self and I out of the Iron Council Specialist Stronghold that day. I fell backwards as one of the Angels picked up the car with one hand.
I took aim.
Nanotech is my power. Marksmanship was always a skill I had. If you feel that the shot you need to take cannot be missed, you need to think less of it. The pressure will make you lose focus.
I readied my firearm.
Take a deep breath.
I took aim, breathing in and out deeply.
Count to three.
I cleared my mind, counting in my head as I aimed the barrel to the gas tank.
And squeeze that trigger, John.
I fired, as the bolt of energy ignited the fuel in the car, causing a massive explosion.
I scurried out of the way, breathing heavily, when suddenly, the Angels emerged from the flames, unharmed.
I ran fired another round at a nearby support beam, distracting them as I ran to Ben. I had to escape somehow. If I could get him on the bike I might be able to get out of here.
I tried to lift Ben, but he was too heavy.
"Damn. Come on, body. Don't fail your boy now." I growled as I tried everything I could to make him budge. The Angels had already figured out my distraction and was making their way to me.
"Ben, you gotta work with me here!"
It was too late. We were surrounded.
My heart began to race as I held out my gun.
"Get back! Stay back!" I shouted, knowing full well my threats held no weight. I was boned.
Prove my worth. That was Mogul's words.
And here I was being unable to hold off these guys from killing both me and my brother. Corey was out there somewhere. I was all that was left of our little squad, and when they needed me the most...
I was utterly useless.
"I gotta do the soul link. There's no choice." I muttered, as I held out my hand, my silver eyes glowing from my reflection.
The Angels began to close in with frightening speed.
I closed my eyes. This was the end. I couldn't finish the incantation in time.
I slowly opened my eyes. Was I dead? No. That sound... it wasn't from my body.
I looked up as I stood face to face with a taller guy. He had long white hair, and a scary looking mask. Kind of like Jason Voorhees from the movie Friday the 13th. But this guy looked dangerous. Much more dangerous. He looked like he could fight.
A black trench coat rippled in the wind as the guy turned to me.
"Remnant 15? Is that hunk of metal supposed to be my elder brother."
My eyes went wide.
"You're a... you're a..."
The Remnant regarded the remaining Angels, and I watched as a flaming projection dissipated. It looked just like a bladed tendril.
"Kanade. Tend to our brothers."
The one called Kanade ran up to us. He had long flowing white hair which reached his shoulders and an innocent face. But it was a face that was undoubtedly one that had seen war. Just like I had.
"You're Remnant 15, right?" Kanade asked, as he put his hand on my chest. I felt my body revitalize.
"Ben." I gasped.
"Ben, my brother. He needs your healing more than I do."
Kanade looked at Ben and frowned. "I cannot heal him. His body is more machine than Remnant. We will need someone with technological expertise."
I watched as the one called Fury stood before the Angels, his hands in his pockets, but his one glowing orange eye penetrating and piercing.
"Good work bullying my youngest brother. Do you feel proud? Now you are dealing with the third eldest. Let us see if you can put up that same bravado, Mogul slaves."
Fury raised his hand, as five tendrils flew out of his body and chased after the Angels, who tried to evade, but the sheer speed of the slashes cut into them in quick succession.
Fury lowered his body and began to glow black and orange.
"Meaningless. All meaningless. There's no point killing a puppet devoid of soul." Fury said, as he shot towards them, hand held back, until he brought his foot backwards and launched a powerful flaming strike.
Angel Breaker alright. Because the moment he sent that strike, he created a massive black and orange explosion that instantly disintegrated the squad that I had so much trouble dealing with.
"So... so strong..." I stammered.
Fury calmly turned to us, walking from the mass chaos he had created.
"For a Remnant, you are weak." Fury said, as he slowly removed his mask, revealing a face similar to Ben and I.
I gnashed my teeth.
You don't have to tell me I'm weak, Fury.
I looked up in surprise.
Fury put his hand on my head as a rush went through my body. Similar to when Ben used to do it.
"You're still young. You have the potential."
Kanade propped Ben up as a tendril wrapped around him, lifting him into the air.
Kanade narrowed his eyes.
"They're not dead. As far as I know, these guys are reanimated with the Corruption. As long as Mogul is alive, so are they. We need to retreat."
Fury held out a hand, generating a massive floating fiery hammer in the air where the Angels stood.
The hammer smashed into the ground, sending the Angels into the abyss.
"This should buy us some time. We're getting out of here."
Fury and Kanade walked off with Ben in their grasps, when I quickly ran forward and grabbed Fury's coat.
Fury turned around, his fiery eyes, ironically, emitting the coldest expression I had ever seen.
"Do not touch me."
"S- Sorry." I yelped, letting go.
"But... there was a woman, that Mogul took. She's currently hostage. We need to save her. She means a lot to Ben-"
"No. We're returning you two to the rest of us. To the rest of our brothers. This is the safest option."
"We can't just leave Corey along with that freak!" I shouted.
Fury raised an eyebrow.
"And do you think if we went like this, we can defeat Mogul and save our elder brother's bride to be? Happily ever after? You've been here long enough, to know what the Prime Aspect of Sin is capable of. Fighting him as we are now, with only three and a half Remnants, is basically suicide. Considering you can't even do anything."
My heart hurt.
"We need to regroup. As we are now, we're in no shape to rescue this Corey girl. Please, just calm down."
My fists shook.
"You two don't get shit! You have no idea what it's like to have a loved one pulled from you guys!"
Fury clenched his teeth.
"Hm. Ignorant and temperamental. He is a Remnant of father all right."
Kanade walked up to me.
"What are you doing. Get your hands off of me. I'll kill you." I growled.
Kanade put a hand on my forehead.
"No. You need to calm down."
A rush suddenly flowed through my body. A different kind, as Kanade's face doubled. Then tripled. Then quadrupled as I watched a word slip from his lips.
Before that day Ben ripped his way through thousands of Iron Council Angels, explosions always triggered that memory of Mom and Dad telling me to run. When the Council came to this planet from the skies, killing everybody.
But since then, hearing explosions was different.
It didn't remind me of the pain of losing my adopted parents.
It reminded me of the pain of Ben.
"John! Ben!" Corey shouted after me, as Ben held out two grenades in each hand, throwing them outwards and generating massive blasts of frost, slowing down the guards.
Ben reached into his pockets and took out two Desert Eagles, transforming them into the SPARTAN battle pistols, picking off each enemy left and right while Corey ran up to me and tried to wrestle with the controls.
I was freed as Corey ordered me to stay by her side while she worked to free Ben.
"Corey? Is that you?" Ben asked, groggily, while the future Ben. My Ben, continued fighting off the enemies.
"ASCENSION soldier in floor size with the proxies." One of the guards spoke into the coms, before a bullet penetrated through his face with deadly accuracy.
Ben dodged a slashed from a guard, spinning in the air and firing his two guns in quick succession, dispatching the remaining guards.
Corey helped Ben to his feet as he limped beside me.
"We're getting out of here. Sparty?"
Sparty, or our Ben, regarded me as he approached with one of his guns in his hand.
"Ben?" I asked.
Sparty knelt down in front of me and put the gun in my hands.
Remember our lessons. Defend yourself. This is what this weapon is for. Use it wisely.
Corey and I followed Sparty as he drew his assault rifle, powering it up with SPARTAN technology and firing cyan energy bursts at any enemy that came our way while Ben shifted on Corey's shoulder, limping with his leg injury.
"Can you stand?" Corey asked.
Ben grimaced. "Yeah."
Another squad of Council members intercepted us as we entered a large room. Corey pulled Ben and I behind cover as a rocket caught Sparty square in the chest, sending him flying into a metal beam, bending and crushing it. But Ben simply got back up, and aimed his assault rifle with one arm, spraying and catching every enemy square in their weak points through their armour.
"SPART205 has infiltrated the generator room. I repeat. SPART205 has reached the generator. Deploy the specialists."
I saw Sparty grimace as he turned to Corey with a grim expression.
"We can't get out of here. The only way is through them. Ben and John, keep your distance, make sure you're well hidden while Sparty and I fight our way through."
Sparty tossed a shotgun to Corey as he drew his Desert Eagle with his other gun hand. His irises began to glow cyan as a targeting reticule began rotating within his eye.
Keep your distance, John. Don't engage the enemy. You're our ranged support.
"Well. If it isn't dearest Mom and Dad." A woman's voice said coyly, as I watched a curvy figure enter the room.
"It's Arachnid." I whimpered. Julia Jensen. She tortured the present Ben and me relentlessly. Every day, while we were held captive, we had a rotating cycle of tortures come in and beat us up. But of all of the specialists, Julia was the scariest.
And it wasn't just that. She had a twisted reason too.
I remembered that day she told me her true identity. Her surname.
She was the future daughter of Ben and Corey. But apparently, Ben never came back to help Corey raise their daughter. She ended up stealing the time warp tech that Ben had left behind to travel back in time. And join the Iron Council to mess with her dad. Who was with ASCENSION.
Ben took aim, the rifle's laser pointer square at his future daughter's forehead.
"Ugh. Cold as ever. You ruin all the fun, dad."
Sparty's eyes were fixed and emotionless, but Corey's was different.
"Julia, please. It doesn't matter what the reason is. Please, let us go. You can't just kill your own father!"
"Oh, you don't get it. It was after all, you who wished the worst on your baby daddy. You're only saying that because you haven't given into despair yet. But when you do, you will thank me for disposing of this useless excuse of a father."
Suddenly, a clap appeared from the hallway, as more and more specialists entered. With them, was Turbo.
"Damn. Sparty. Still kickin? I guess I'll just have to beat the shit out of you all over again."
Sparty grimaced, as he put distance between us.
There was no way he could fight them all at once. After he got his ass kicked by Turbo. He couldn't fight all eight of the specialists at once.
"No. Stop Ben. STOP!" I screamed as I woke up, my hands flailing while Kanade restrained me.
"Hey. Calm down kid."
I stopped flailing as I sat up. Kanade gave me a cup of warm water as I realized we were inside a small cave along the side of a mountain. A fire was crackling as Fury tended to it.
"Where's Ben?" I asked. Kanade pointed at our elder brother who was propped up against the stone wall.
I readjusted myself on the cold floor.
"How long was I out?"
"Can you handle the answer?"
I paused myself, keeping myself from retaliating.
"Yes. Yes I can."
My heart dropped.
Fury turned to us.
"Yes. Sammy still hasn't arrived to pick us up. Don't know if that idiot got himself in trouble again. But I doubt even Mogul can catch his elusive ass."
"The fourth eldest. He's an astral projection user. It was all thanks to him that we were able to locate you two. Being time displaced and everything. I never thought the Power of the Paladins could reach that far in the spacetime continuum."
"You guys seem to have been rounding up pretty well. Are Ben and I the last ones?"
Kanade shook his head.
"No. We're still missing Remnants 7, 8, 10 through 14."
"So seven Remnants?"
Fury knelt down in front of me.
"Seven. And Arman."
Kanade's face looked pained.
"I shouldn't have chastised him all those years ago. Only Sammy can visit him and he can't even stay long-"
"It wasn't your fault. Arman made the choice to leave us to 'grow stronger'. After everything he said, that Messiah complex he put himself up with. Went ahead and threw it all away. Don't ever feel responsible for that hypocrite's actions."
Fury glanced at Ben, who had slumped over.
"I heard our big brother over there was quite a soldier himself."
"Yeah. He was a member of ASCENSION. Cybernetic army responsible for fighting off the Iron Council."
"Hm. Looks to me he still has a bunch of power he hadn't tapped into. Because he wouldn't be in this state in the first place."
"What did you just say?!" I growled, as I rushed towards Fury, but Kanade held me back.
"I'm saying, if he used his full potential, he would have ended the Iron Council. Singlehandedly. I guess there was something holding him back. There's no ill will in what I said, it's just fact."
Fury opened his hand, and a burst of black flame appeared.
"Each one of us possesses the power of the Paladin of War. As Remnants, we are significantly stronger than the average warrior. Arman Wan, the Firstborn, the eldest of all of us, was capable of taking down three Greek Titans at once while he was still learning his powers. Then, proceeded to defeat the Paladin of Light with his Phoenix Form."
My mouth hung open.
"He beat... Icarus?"
Fury's serious expression told me he wasn't joking.
"Each one of us fighter types is capable of many things. Kanade himself, is capable of defeating an entire legion of enemies simply by putting them into an endless trance. Well, that is, after he abandoned who he was-"
"Deacon." Kanade muttered, holding out his hand.
"Sorry." Fury replied. "But what I mean, is we all have untapped potential. Maybe with you two here with the rest of us, you guys can grow. Then, once you've evolved as warriors, you can go back and rescue Corey."
Fury got up and began to tend to Ben, wiping him off with a cloth.
"That dumbass protege of mine better know how to fix this." He grumbled.
"He has a protege?" I asked Kanade.
"Yes. Thomas King. The Floating Man, the fifth eldest."
"I have a lot of catching up to do then."
Kanade managed a small smile, as his shirt shifted, revealing a cross necklace.
Kanade caught me staring and quickly put the pendant back into his shirt.
"Hey uh. I've been meaning to ask. Are you religious by any chance?"
Kanade pursed his lips.
"Why? What happened?"
Kanade gave me a split second annoyed look. But his expression resumed to normal.
"I get you are in your teenage years, but you need to learn to be more mindful of others."
"Sorry. I have a bit of a mouth."
Kanade leaned back against the rock.
"I used to be an avid follower of the Lord. I guess I still believe. But... over time, I just struggle to keep up that faith. At least to the same intensity that I used to. Back then I believed I could live my life without harming a single soul. That pacifism was the way forward. But the older I got, and the worse things became because I could have stopped it if I didn't just sit in the sidelines and watched. It hurt. And the pain just kept getting worse until...
"One day, one of our brothers, Lucius Cassidy, ended up taking a near fatal hit for me. Because I wanted to talk things out with one of Mogul's acolytes. Believing I could use the power of love to get through him. I watched as Lucius nearly lost his life, his body almost entirely disintegrated. Then I realized... I was useless the way I was. I needed to change. I needed to change because I was weak and couldn't bear the pain of seeing my family get torn apart from my choices."
Kanade gripped his necklace.
"I sullied my hands. From the day I was created to avenge our progenitor, I was already dirty. There's no such thing as claiming to be pure if you got your hands involved with another person's death. Even if you weren't the one directly dealing the fatal blow. I took part in it. I am a sinner. Just like the rest of the people I fight with."
Kanade suddenly perked up.
"Huh?" I asked, but Kanade put his hand on my mouth.
"Quiet." Kanade hissed, as he peeked out of the cave.
"I sense it. Corruption at higher intensities. This level of power is beyond the normal Iron Council Angels he has deployed."
I peeked from within the cave as well, and saw it. Some hooded figure emitting dark mist from his robe. Something about him made me want to curl up into a ball and die.
"Should we wake Fury?" I whispered. "He should be able to take an acolyte, right?"
Kanade looked at me.
"Deacon needs his rest. As you are now, you are no match for the acolyte. I will fight him."
"Can you though? I mean isn't your whole schtick putting people to sleep or something? What if that thing doesn't sleep?"
Kanade leapt from the rock and landed on the ground, running to the figure as I tried to reach out to him.
"Dude!" I yelped. I quickly grabbed my handgun and ran off after him.
By the time I caught up to my older brother, he had already engaged in confrontation.
"Identify yourself, acolyte." Kanade said.
The acolyte glanced at the Remnant.
"The Sixth. Ah... Yes. The one who was pure. The one who rejected his nature of violence."
Kanade gritted his teeth as he took a step forward.
"I wouldn't act all high and mighty." He warned, as he held out his hand. Something like energy particles began to exit the acolyte's body as it entered Kanade, as the acolyte fell to his knees.
"Is that all Mogul has on me? A pacifist? Perhaps this was true, eight years ago. But unfortunately, that information is terribly outdated. For one thing, my abilities is not just mere healing."
More energy began to stream into the Remnant as he took more and more steps to the acolyte, who struggled to even get to his feet.
"Healing. Energy replenishment. These are all just byproducts from what I am truly capable of. I am able to give life and energy to others. But it was only until I embraced my nature, did I discover the other half, the true nature of my powers."
What did Fury say? That each Remnant was significantly stronger than the average warrior?
Kanade was capable of putting an entire army to sleep.
Those were his words.
And now, I was beginning to see why.
"I can give these things, and I can take them away. For trying to hunt me and my brothers, I will be taking away your energy. You are defenseless and powerless, acolyte." Kanade said, as he closed his fist, his body glowing white.
Kanade brought his foot back, and leapt forward with blinding speed. So the energy he had taken from the acolyte was being used to fuel his own physical abilities.
"This is over!" Kanade shouted, and slammed his fist down, but not before the acolyte evasively zipped out of the way.
"Reckless and foolish, just like your progenitor." The acolyte cackled, throwing several knives which embedded themselves into my brother's chest. Kanade grunted as he stumbled back.
"Kanade!" I shouted, but Kanade held out his hand, gesturing me to stop.
"Don't get involved, John."
"Like hell I'm letting this creep hurt another brother of mine!" I said, as I took aim and fired at the acolyte, who simply took this moment of chaos to close the distance.
My eyes widened as his talons went super close to my face, but not before Kanade dove in and shoved me out of the way, causing the acolyte to slice the grass.
"Two Remnants for Lord Mogul" The acolyte hissed as he spun around, but Kanade managed to regain his footing and blocked his strike, beginning a hand to hand exchange.
"Know your place." Kanade said, as he went low and struck the acolyte in the midsection, then went high and kicked him across the face with astonishing force, sending him into a boulder.
"Heh." The acolyte said, as he struggled to his feet.
"I like you. Kanade Asaoka. Show me the fruits of your eight year transformation!"
Kanade turned to me, his eyes glowing white as I felt the strength in me leave my body.
I fell to my knees, reduced to a mere spectator.
"When Deacon fails to become the one to dispose of you, I must take his place. To protect our brothers."
The Acolyte blasted forward with black electricity, the Corruption, but Kanade took a step back and blocked his strike.
The Acolyte continued laying down pressure, but it was like nothing was fazing Kanade, who calmly blocked and dodged. Evasive and clean. His style was different from Fury's. Even though Fury's style was calm, it was like he was suppressing immense power. Like he was hiding the beast.
But Kanade's style was just that. Just calm. Tranquil.
What was Kanade like in the past? Judging from how he described it, he was a pacifist. Whatever had caused him to turn into something like this must have been major.
"Come, retaliate! What are you waiting for, Remnant!" The Acolyte jeered, as Kanade spun around and leapt into the air, bouncing off the tree trunks in the forest as the Acolyte followed him. A white streak of light bouncing into the night sky trailed by a black electrical comet.
Kanade closed his eyes, seemingly in prayer, as he brought his hands together.
"Forgive me, for what I am about to do." He muttered, as his eyes went wide, releasing a powerful strike with the palm of his hand. White gusts of energy and wind blasted from his palm and shattered the Acolyte. I could feel his bones break as the Acolyte screeched pain, smashing into the ground.
Kanade flew inwards, as his eyes were wide, extremely focused and concentrated.
"By the Paladin Code of Acadia, you have been eliminated. Contract Complete, Acolyte of Mogul."
The Acolyte's eyes widened as Kanade slammed into him, releasing a massive bright light as I instinctively covered myself, keeping myself from being blinded.
By the time I had recovered, Kanade had regained his position. I walked to his side, and saw the smoking body of the Acolyte, alongside a burning crater in the ground.
Kanade smiled and patted me on the head, much to my annoyance.
"It looks like we might need to find a way back without Sammy's help."
"Benjamin Fong and Jonathan Ko." Lucius said, as he handed me their photos.
"Remnant 2 and Remnant 15. Took a while, but Sammy finally pinpointed their location. Try to get them and extract back here, top priority. If Sammy can't breach you four back, try to hold out as long as you can."
I inspected the file for Remnant 2.
"A ranged soldier, huh."
"Yeah. Unparalleled marksmanship. Possibly surpassing Meena's."
I paused. "That's a really bold claim."
"Not possibly. He definitely surpasses mine." Meena said, as she crossed her arms, her ponytail following her movements as she inspected Ben's file.
"Judging from the way this kid is built, and his accomplishments. It's humanly impossible to be able to shoot down twelve targets at that distance with a single Desert Eagle. In that short of a timeframe, that level of reflexes can't be achieved even by me."
"And if he refuses to comply? Fighting something like that as a mid-close range fighter puts me at a severe disadvantage."
"He doesn't have any say." Merrow said, as she leaned across the table.
"What do you mean?"
Merrow flipped through the pages in Sammy's report.
"Says here that he's in a critical and unresponsive state. I guess he was put in that condition while he was still learning his powers. He's not the one to watch out for. It's your youngest brother. Jonathan Ko. The kiddo is still young and extremely confrontational. Not to mention he still believes Ben is the only family he has, he is understandably very protective."
"Confrontational, huh. I guess we have a guy to smooth out things like that." I looked at Kanade, who regarded me.
"I'll try, Deacon. But don't expect the same theatrical performance I had eight years ago."
"It doesn't matter. You're the only level headed one out of all of us. At the very least, you're the least likely to start a fight."
Meena walked up to me and kissed me, as I ran my hand across her back.
"Hey, you better come back to me. Dickless Deacon."
"Yeah. Better not sleep with anybody else. I'll hunt them down. Every single time."
"That would've made contracts so easy back then."
Kanade joined me at the portal that Sammy had made. Sammy eyed me.
"Lucky bastard, landing that bombshell. I wonder if I grew my hair out I'd tap something like that."
"Call Meena that again and I'll kill you."
"Sorry." Sammy said, quickly.
Being a leader of this operation. I never thought I would be one to carry this much responsibility. Not eight years ago. Not even before my time with Kallas. This was all new to me.
"Hey, Deacon." Lucius said, as he put his hand on my shoulder.
"Think of it as a learning opportunity. Maybe after this, you'll start to appreciate the role of being leader a bit more."
My face paled, remembering the time I snapped and tried to kill him and Arman.
Lucius laughed. "Don't worry. You've changed. We all have. You've got a family waiting for you now. Come back soon. I'd love to meet our brothers!"
I smiled, as Kanade and I stepped through the portal, entering a new reality.
"Hey. Where are we going?" John asked me.
"Someplace away from here." I replied. "Extraction is delayed."
"Does that mean we can find Corey now?"
John ran in front of me and held out his hands.
"The hell do you mean no? We have this window of opportunity. We can save Ben's girlfriend."
"You're being hasty, kid. There's no way we can retrieve her with just Kanade and I."
"Kanade kicked that Acolyte's ass! Dude has the power to steal other people's energy and life force! Isn't that enough to beat Mogul?"
"You haven't seen a lot of fights, then."
"I know much more than you think."
"That's something someone who hasn't seen many fights would say."
John's face turned red. "Hey! You trying to pick a fight? Unlike you two, I fully understand how important Corey is to Ben. I'll find her, to hell what you two think."
I clenched my fist as I grabbed the kid's collar and lifted him into the air, eyeing him dangerously.
"You're walking a thin line with me, kid. I told you over and over again. Kanade and I can't beat Mogul on our own. It's like everything I say goes from one ear and comes out the other. Maybe I should just leave you here for dead-"
"Deacon." Kanade cut me off, as I slowly lowered John, who's eyes began to brim with tears.
"Corey..." John muttered.
Kanade knelt in front of John. "Look. We just need to hold out for a bit longer. At least until Sammy figures out how to pinpoint here. We're just moving locations, because it's not safe for you two."
The rest of the journey was silent and awkward.
John tripped and stumbled, as he insisted on dragging the cart carrying Ben along on his own.
I remembered what Merrow told me.
"John's a teenager. And a Remnant of Decen. Decen himself was aggressive enough, so I can only imagine how aggressive a teenage Decen must be. Just try to be nice with him. Okay?"
"How am I supposed to be nice, Merrow. Look at me."
"You were nice before you were Fury. I know there's still that part of you in there. In the end, he's still a little kid who wants his big brother to be well and happy."
"I think you have me confused for Arman-" I stopped myself, as Merrow stared at the ground.
I put my hands on her shoulders.
"Hey. Sorry, I didn't mean it like that. Honest."
I brought her in a hug, as she buried her head in my chest.
"Sorry. I'm the oldest here, and yet I'm always crying and losing my cool. Haha."
I stroked her hair.
"It's okay to cry, Merrow. Nothing wrong with that."
I returned to reality, as I glanced at John, who began to slow down more and more.
"Tch. You're going to get some serious back pain when you're older." I said, as I walked next to him.
"Give me that."
John glared at me. "Like hell I'm letting you put your hands on my big brother-"
"He's my big brother too. This is non-negotiable."
John reluctantly let go of the handle as I took it. My hand pulled and I was momentarily stopped.
"Huh. He's heavier than I thought."
John smirked. "Course he is. Dude is 75% machine. Carrying him isn't the easiest thing ever."
I readjusted my stance and pulled a bit harder, and regained the momentum of our pace, as John's mouth hung open. Then returned to its usual scowl.
I looked at John.
Just try to be nice to him.
"Uh." I muttered.
John turned to me.
"This is pretty heavy. I'm surprised you were able to drag him along all this time. Well done."
John's face began to blush as his eyes turned wide.
"I- You- Er. Whatever." He stammered.
We showed up in a motel. It was completely run down.
"Heads up guys. There's a chance that there's people insi-"
John kicked open the door.
"John!" Kanade scolded, as John threw his hands up in the air.
"What! There's no one inside! Why would anybody stay in this dump-"
A gasp appeared from within the desk.
We all gave John an exasperated look.
"Sorry." John muttered.
I peeked inside, as the figure returned into its hiding spot, trembling.
"It's okay. We're not hostile." I said, as I entered the room, and knelt down.
The figure was a little girl, maybe around John's age. She looked absolutely terrified as she yelped and scurried even further into her corner. I took in the situation. Her clothes were in rags. In the corner was a half open can. My time back with Meena in Blackwater gave enough experience for me to know what was going on.
She was sustaining herself by eating the contents of that can. In an attempt to keep it from going bad, she tried to open it part way, and eat very small quantities at a time. This meant she was low on food. I picked up the can as the girl held out her hand, but retracted it quickly upon seeing the rest of us.
"Dog food? Gross!" John said, but was whacked on the top of his head by Kanade.
I went back to the girl.
"Is it okay if we stay here for a while? We won't hurt you. I promise. We are all talented fighters..." I looked at John. "For the most part..."
I sat down on the ground.
"Come on out. We can protect you."
The girl hesitantly crawled out of her hiding spot, as her red hair glowed in the sunset. She looked around 15 to 16 years old, but it was hard to tell from all the soot on her face.
"I'm on it." Kanade said, as he sat next to the girl and held out his hand, but the girl quickly flinched.
"Hey. It's okay. I'm not going to hurt you."
The girl softened as Kanade healed her up.
A few hours later, we made camp in the busted motel, as the girl clung onto me.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Stella." Stella murmured.
"That's a pretty name." I remarked, as Stella blushed.
"What is yours?" Stella asked.
"Deacon." I replied.
"It's nice to meet you, Deacon." Stella whispered.
"Did you stay here all by yourself? How are you still alive? How many more of you are there?" John asked, in rapid fire succession. Each question causing Stella to hide behind my back and cling onto me harder and harder.
"John. Lay off with the questions." I ordered.
Stella buried her face in my back.
"I was here with my older brother. But the Angels found us. They toyed with us, and violated me in front of my brother. When my brother tried to save me from them, they killed him in cold blood."
I turned around and put her in an embrace.
"It's okay. You're safe now."
John's eyes went empty. I knew what it felt like. Many of the people I had seen during my Blackwater days went through something just as traumatic. No one deserved this.
That night, everybody went to sleep, and I volunteered to do night watch duty, since Kanade did it last time.
Stella was unable to sleep.
"You should probably sleep too. It's fine. I can keep watch."
"I can't." Stella muttered. "Whenever I close my eyes, I see my brother."
I sighed, as I sat down on the ground next to her.
Stella grabbed my arm again.
"Deacon... do you have anyone special to you?"
Stella's face looked disappointed. "What's her name?"
"Her name's Meena Kennedy. The toughest woman I had ever had the pleasure of working with. She inspired me to become strong. She scared me at first, then as I grew up I came to respect her, then I fell for her."
"Do you like strong women?"
"You can say that, yeah."
Stella stared at the ground.
"I can never be strong. I'm... defiled... Impure. I'm not even a virgin anymore-"
"What does that matter? Whether you're strong or not depends on the actions you take moving forward. The past serves to strengthen you, not pull you down. You have the potential to be strong, Stella."
Stella looked at me. "Me?"
"Yeah. Why? Do you disagree?"
Stella looked away. "No... I just don't... know if I can do it."
"You can't if you keep moping around like that. I know you've been through a lot, but the first step is often the hardest."
"You seem to know a lot about strength... Deacon Chow." Stella said, as she buried her face into my chest.
"Not really. I just know how to tell if someone needs it. After all..."
My eyes began to glow a deadly orange, as black tendrils burst from my back, the blades aimed directly at Stella.
"Someone who has to rely on deceiving their enemy can never be strong."
Stella grinned sinisterly, as she leapt back and evaded all of the slashes, as she reached into her rags and threw several knives at me. My body superheated, burning them to ash as I got to my feet.
Kanade snapped into action as he grabbed my tendril and borrowed a portion of my strength, then took Ben and John and ran out of the motel.
John stared at Stella, his eyes in complete disbelief.
"Wha- What is this?"
"I suppose it was foolish of me." Stella's eyes turned black as she began to transform, her body turning wretched and witchlike, as numerous knives appeared in thin air, flying to me as my tendrils flew around, cutting and retaliating.
"Attempting to deceive one who has seen two hells. Once in Blackwater. The other with the Halakite. It was never going to work. At least I managed to scar one of the Remnants."
I turned to John, who's face was pale in terror.
"Why... why is she..."
I sighed, as I spun around and slashed at Stella, who materialized across the motel.
"Be grateful, Fury. I have decided to descend into this place myself. The lower acolytes were clearly not enough to deal with you. Perhaps it was necessary to bring an Acolyte on Ksenia's calibre to dispatch you two."
I shot forward, slicing and swinging with my tendrils as Stella evaded quickly and perfectly, breaching my defences and jabbing me in the chest with one of her knives. I choked out blood as Stella used this momentum to fling me into the motel, smashing and destroying the place.
"Deacon!" John shouted, but Kanade held him back.
I struggled to my feet as Stella zipped in, laughing hysterically as she zoomed all around me, landing successive slashes with her hundreds of knives as my body exploded in a ceremony of blood.
"Am I too much for you, Fury of the Halakites? Have you lost the fire you had when you were under Malakai's influence? Where is the ruthlessness. Where is the Wrath of Decen?" Stella taunted as I clenched my teeth, concentrating and keeping myself from passing out from all the blood I was losing.
It was true. She was a bit too fast for me as of now.
I put on my mask.
"Vessel of Diablos, Quarter Skull."
My body superheated as my eye became hollow. I held out my hand, which was now skeletonized, as Stella's knives disintegrated before me.
"Tch. Well, to be expected, from the third eldest." Stella said, as she flew into the air and summoned even more knives.
I brought my foot back as my tendrils came together as one, to form a massive blade which slashed the air, delivering a huge inferno which overwhelmed Stella.
Stella flew into the ground as I regained my footing.
"Is she dead?" John asked.
"No." I replied. "Someone who claims to be on Ksenia's level can't possibly be dead. After all, Ksenia managed to defeat Arman's Phoenix Form."
"Yes. Correct. Very. Correct." Stella said, her voice quadrupled, as she began to glow purple, manifested multiple eyes on her face.
"You are worthy. To fight me. Deacon Chow."
I braced myself as Stella blasted forward and landed a devastating blow at me. Even blocking it was not enough. I flew backwards and smashed into numerous motel buildings in the area as Stella laughed, grabbing my throat and hurling me into the air.
"Are you not going to use your full Vessel powers? How insulting. If you don't you're going to die!"
If I used my full transformation, I will use up all my energy. It was true that Kanade could restore my energy, but there was no way Kanade could fight on par with Stella. There was no time to absorb her energy or life force with that level of speed.
I did have a trick up my sleeve, though.
The blood that was all over the place from her last knife volley began to levitate, as I held out my hand. Stella turned around.
"What is this-"
The blood clumped together all around her as I closed my fist, causing a massive black and orange explosion.
You... little brat. Stella growled, from within the smoke as her eyes became pure darkness.
I will tear you apart.
Stella and I clashed in the sky, as I attempted to get a read on her fighting pattern, but there was none. She was way too erratic. I guess that was her style.
Stella won the clash, as she managed to cut my face, then my chest, then my back, as I fell from the air, my body exiting my transformation.
"What a pathetic display of your powers, Deacon! How can you claim to be a Remnant? Decen would be most displeased."
I smirked. I loved fighting enemies who had egos. Especially the crazy ones. It meant when they had an opening, it was super obvious.
The woman that I loved.
Almost everything she had tried to teach me went in one ear and out the other. But there were certain things that stuck. After all, she inspired me. And continued to do so. It was about time my style was influenced by hers.
I reached into my coat pockets and took out two guns. Polished silver. Just like hers. The Organization mercenary standard, made popular by Kennedy herself.
"This is the fruits of my labor. Of those eight years. I hope you're ready, Stella." I said, as my body began to glow.
Angelbreaker Blast - SHARPSHOOTING
I took aim, as the guns began to change shape due to the influence of the Demonfire surrounding it, turning demonic as I readjusted the barrels, firing blasts of flame at Stella, who was taken aback with my new fighting style that she was unable to react in time as the first few blasts sliced her body open.
Another bolt got her in the leg as Stella screamed in pain.
I flipped in the air as I continued firing while Stella descended, taking damage with every shot until her body smashed into the ground, defeated.
I walked up to Stella and regarded her. Stella's eyes went wide as she screeched into the air.
Kanade ran up to me.
"Tch!" I aimed my gun at her to finish her off, but before I knew it two more Acolytes materialized in front of us.
"John and Ben!" I shouted, as Kanade quickly ran up to the two, but was intercepted by one of the female acolytes, who wielded a bladed chain.
"These two are my prey. I will add you to the list... false follower."
Kanade gritted his teeth as he held out his hands, draining the life force and energy of the wildlife around him, giving him a silvery aura.
I turned around, but immediately had my face smashed into the concrete by a large, towering muscular Acolyte.
"You are my opponent!" The Acolyte glowered over me as I struggled to pry his hand off of my face, which continued to crack the ground.
Stella got to her feet.
"Finish them. The youngest is mi-"
Stella went flying into a bank of water, as John brought his handgun back.
"What do I look like, a damsel in distress? You're gonna have to try a lot harder than that if you want me, missy." John said, as he brought his hand in front of his face.
"Soul Link: Paladin Decen 5%"
John's left arm began cladded with similar spikes as Lucius, as he formed a large blade.
John parkoured across the place, on top of cars and underneath trailers as Stella screeched and pursued him.
"John... Kanade-" I muttered, as The Large Acolyte lifted me from the ground and squeezed.
My vision darkened, as I growled, impaling him with multiple tendrils.
"Nice try, Fury. But I am the perfect counter for your powers."
The Acolyte threw me as I smashed into two motel buildings. The wounds in his chest healing instantly, as the Acolyte closed the distance before I could react.
"Speed. Strength. Reflexes. Regeneration. I surpass you in everything."
The Acolyte punched me in the gut as I spat out blood.
"Ack!" I stumbled back, but not before the Acolyte sent another powerful shot at my chin, launching me in the air as he again, closed the distance and wound up a dangerously powerful kick.
There was no time to dodge!
I held out my elbow to block it as much as I could, but it was not enough, as I felt my elbow bones crack. The Acolyte hurled me into the ground.
The Acolyte walked up to me as he lifted his foot, stomping on my face over and over again as my blood splattered all over the ground.
"Come on, Fury. Do something. Do something. DO SOMETHING."
I slowly lifted my hand, the blood lifting into the air as attaching themselves to the Acolyte's body.
The blood ignited, as the explosion sent me flying back. I slammed into the side of a trailer, warping the metal as I landed on the ground.
"Such pathetic firepower." The Acolyte smiled crazily, walking through the Demonfire.
"Ugh." I muttered, as I felt blood leak down the side of my face.
I looked at my hand, which began shaking and trembling.
He severely damaged the nerves in my left arm.
Rendering it practically useless.
This was going to be annoying.
"From what I hear..." The Acolyte said, as he suddenly disappeared.
My eyes widened, as I felt hundreds of shots land all across my body as my mask flew off my face, the pressure of the blood coming from my mouth forcing it off.
"You can't heal very well. That sucks. I never understood the point of feeling no pain. Pain is what makes someone strong. And you don't have it. You'll just keep getting damaged until you pass out."
The Acolyte kneed me in the stomach as nausea rolled all over me. I hit the ground as a kick sent me reeling back.
I regained my posture, as my vision stopped being blurry. I was able to make out his stance and his figure. He was massive. Muscles bulging everywhere like some kind of steroid freak. But unlike those with massive muscles, he moved with frightening speed. His stance showed he knew his martial arts.
He was right.
He outclassed me in every single aspect. And he was somehow immune to my Demonfire because of his healing.
"Are all Remnants this weak? Not strong enough, not durable enough. So you all have to rely on your silly powers? My strength, durability, and regeneration are all innate to me. You got all your shit passed down to you. How pathetic. You don't even deserve to know my name."
I brought up my hands as the Acolyte sent another volley of punches which sent ripples across my body.
"Pathetic. Powerless." The Acolyte taunted me as he began punching me through the dirt. My body sinking deeper and deeper as it began creating a massive crater in the ground.
"Come on. This is boring. Are you really finished already, Remnant?"
I sputtered blood as I lay on the ground. I couldn't move my body. Almost all of my bones felt like they were shattered.
I clenched my teeth.
I'm not weak.
I was never weak.
Not since my torture by Kallas.
And not since the eight years of gruelling training I put myself through.
"RAAAAAH" I roared, as I blew everything back, rising from the crater as a massive storm of Demonfire surrounded me. My skin began to peel away as I assumed my Vessel transformation.
I never said I was finished. I'm going to end this fight. The outcome is mine to decide, Acolyte.
My voice boomed across the area, as the Acolyte smiled crazily, his eyes full of wild excitement.
"Good. Very good. Show me the full power of the Demon Lord Diablos. I want it. I want it all! GIVE IT ALL TO ME.... FURY!"
The Acolyte blasted forward as did I.
"One step. Two step. Spin. And backhand!" The Acolyte chanted, dodging my strikes and sending a blow across my face.
"ACK!" I grunted, as my neck snapped back, but I regained my posture, curling inwards and releasing dozens of tendrils as I slammed the ground.
Angelbreaker Hundredfold Slash - Ultra Cataclysm
In a split second, the entire area was covered in glowing orange slashes. But the Acolyte was nowhere to be found.
"Is this all your Vessel Transformation has to offer? Third Eldest?!" The Acolyte taunted me from above, as I stared upward in surprise, catching an axe kick on my collarbone.
I grabbed his leg and began to superheat my body.
The leg began to burn with extremely high temperatures.
"Just a char!" The Acolyte shouted, as he grabbed my face and leapt through another cluster of motel buildings smashing me through each one and hurling me hundreds of feet across the town as I crushed myself into an apartment complex.
I got to my feet, my face murderous, as I held out my hands, forming hundreds of balls of light.
Angelbreaker Blast - Super Gatling
I launched the volley at the Acolyte who dodged them with impossible agility.
"What is that? A pea shooter?" He asked, his face completely disinterested as he grabbed my throat and squeezed.
I choked as I instantly lost my transformation.
"Ugh. I'm probably doing Lord Mogul a disservice by replicating the way he killed your progenitor. But whatever. You're nothing but a disappointment."
The Acolyte let go as I crumpled to the ground.
"Damn... it..." I croaked, as I tried to move my body, but it refused to listen to me.
"Urk!" I grimaced, as the Acolyte's bladed chain severed my right hand.
"Why do you make such faces? That is quite unbecoming for a follower of faith."
This was bad. Fury was completely overwhelmed by that Berserker Acolyte, and I, was overwhelmed by this Acolyte's whips and chains. No amount of healing I could give to myself could offset the damage she was putting on me. Not to mention she knew exactly what to say to get under my skin.
When a warrior is backed into a corner, their true colours show.
My true colours is that of a sinner, and a coward. That was all I ever was. No matter how strong I become, how tough I force myself to be, in the end, that is my true nature.
So I can't be backed into a corner.
I needed to be strong for Fury and my brothers.
I leapt back and put my hand on the ground, as my wound regenerated, the severed hand replaced with a glowing white construct as flesh and tissue took shape.
"I will defeat you." I growled, as I absorbed the life energy of the grass around me, forcing it to wither as my body surged with power. I engaged the Acolyte once more, resisting the cuts and slashes of her long ranged weapons as I tried to close the distance.
Unfortunately, the Acolyte knew exactly what I was trying to do, and continued to widen the gap, all the more cutting into me.
A chain managed to evade my hands and latch itself onto my shoulder as I roared in agony. The Acolyte smiled sadistically as she dragged me around and slammed me onto the pavement.
All I saw was the night sky, and the voluptuous figure of the Acolyte herself, peering down at me.
"Aren't you going to cry, Kanade? Like you always have? Cry. Sixth. Cry. Cry Cry Cry! Crybaby!" She jeered, as she continued lashing me, my body exploding in pain.
I gripped a rock and hurled it at her, but the rock was diced in the blink of an eye. It was enough for me to escape and close the distance, as I flew in, to strike.
But the moment I made eye contact with her, I paused.
"Well there, Kanade. I thought you would have put up a better fight. After all, our comrade called us in because we were supposed to be the perfect counters for you. But I didn't expect you to lose this quickly."
Four chains hooked onto each of my limbs.
"AAAARGH!" I yelled, as the Acolyte sent me flying into the air, slamming me onto the ground face first.
"Come now, Kanade." The Acolyte purred, as she sat on top of me and began impaling me over and over again.
"This is such a disappointing performance. I would have thought meeting me again would bring out your lustful side once more. But you're just nothing but a disgust to me."
I gritted my teeth as I closed my eyes.
I couldn't even say anything back.
"Don't you remember... the last time we encountered, dearest?"
This Acolyte and I had history.
She was the reason I fell from grace. The start of my descent into endless killing. Endless carnage. I had given up on myself that day, and she was the catalyst to it. It wasn't Lucius' injuries that made me choose to stain my hands with blood. That was a half lie told to my little brother to keep his innocence.
It was even before that.
I had tried to use the power of love to bring her to her senses, but in reality, it was her power of lust that brought me out of my senses.
I had fallen since I interacted with this Acolyte.
"You're not even going to address me by name, Kanade?"
Another chain impaled me as I growled in agony, the pain was too much as my eyes began to leak tears.
"He cries! I did it! I must savour it. I want you to SOB, dearest. I want you to beg for me! Beg!"
"Icarus..." I muttered. "I've failed..."
My memory flashed back. To when I was still under the care of Uncle Icarus.
"But Icarus, I don't like to fight."
"In time you will be backed into a corner. You must use what I have taught you."
I had started to cry. I cried a lot.
"Silly child. I see Decen's leaky eyes have been passed down to you."
"Why? Why do I hate to fight? Am I flawed?"
Icarus put a hand on my head. "No. If anything, I envy you. I envy that you are pure and kind. That you do not have a heart of a killer like your father did. If only I too...
"Was as pure as you."
I slammed my fist on the ground.
What have I done?
Tempted by this Acolyte. To fall and give into desire. I betrayed not just the Church. The Faith.
I betrayed Icarus' trust.
The blades continued piercing me until I had no more strength left in my body to even yell in pain.
"Finished already? Ugh." The Acolyte lifted me into the air with her chains as she gave me a disappointed look, which turned into a coy smile.
"You didn't last long last time either. But it still felt good. To know that I brought the purest of the Remnants to my bed."
Blood leaked from the sides of my mouth as my eyes listlessly moved onto the distance.
"Tch! I'm right here. Don't ignore me!" The Acolyte slapped my face and forced me to face her.
The Acolyte continued beating on me as I felt defeated. There was no point. This mission was a failure.
Everything was meaningless.
I could convince myself to be kind and a follower of the faith.
But I defiled myself and gave into lust.
I was tempted by her.
And it nearly costed Lucius his life.
One sin, led to a dozen, led to a hundred, led to thousands of sins all stacked upon me. As I helped my brothers kill many to get stronger.
"Sorry." I muttered.
"Huh?" The Acolyte raised an eyebrow. "You apologize? You're a bit late for tha-"
"Not you. I'm sorry to everyone who placed their trust in me. I was never the purest. I've fallen. I could see why Arman would have abandoned himself. For it is in our nature to sin. Because it was Decen's nature to sin."
"Ugh. I didn't sign up for a philosophy lesson." The Acolyte scoffed as she tossed me to the side.
"Icarus..." I muttered, as I slowly began to lose consciousness.
"Do you ever feel bad?"
Icarus turned to me, in surprise. We had finished collecting herbs for the Silver City. Icarus had a large basket full of the herbs slung on one shoulder. His chains were stained from the blood of several intruders who tried to fight the Silver City defences.
"For killing. It is wrong. I was always taught that it is wrong to take the life of another."
Icarus smiled at a younger version of me.
"Yes, I do. Not a single day goes by where I don't regret my actions."
"But why do you keep doing it? Uncle Icarus, it is wrong!"
Icarus sighed as he put a hand on my head.
"Because it is my duty to protect. Perhaps those who died were for a purpose beyond what we understand. But as a Paladin, it is in my service to destroy. As much as it goes beyond my morals. It is in my purpose to do so. And as a Remnant, you may find yourself doing this too."
"I will do everything in my power to stay pure." I said, adamantly.
"Does this humor you? Why does it humor you?" I asked, my face incredulous.
"Because that means you have not fully lived your life. No one is perfect. No man. No winged warrior. No Paladin. And certainly no Remnant." Icarus pointed at my chest.
Icarus continued. "At some point, you will make mistakes. You will question if you were ever pure. And the simple answer is, we as mortals will never ever be pure. But it doesn't mean we can just give up on our mission to seek redemption and the light. After all, that's what it means to be mortal, and a follower in faith."
Icarus looked at me, his eyes glowing green with the Motion Force.
"Will you continue to look after your brothers? Kanade?"
"Huh?" I asked, as my surroundings changed back to reality, but Icarus was still standing there. I turned to my left, to see my body, motionless, while the Acolyte kneeling down laughing hysterically.
I looked to my right, to see Deacon being beaten down relentlessly by the Berserker Acolyte.
"Icarus, is that really you?"
"Your brothers need your help. You have finally seen for yourself, that you cannot possibly remain pure. Sin is just as unavoidable as war. But you must stay strong and soldier past your mistakes and learn from them. You have something to fight for, no?"
I looked at my hands, as energy began to pool around them, the body of myself slowly dissolving, then dissolving faster and faster as the Acolyte took notice.
I took a deep breath.
"You're right. I am a sinner. But I have not given up. Just because I have sinned, doesn't mean I can give up entirely. I will continue fighting and growing stronger for my family, while also keeping my centre. Thank you, Uncle Icarus."
Icarus crossed his arms and gave me a look of approval.
"Go, Kanade. Evolve. Become great."
My surroundings became clearer, as I fully reformed. The Acolyte shot to her feet.
"Teleportation? What is the meaning of thi-"
I teleported to her location and launched a powerful open handed strike at her midsection.
"My mistakes were mistakes. But I've moved on. Maybe you should too... Shaina."
Shaina yelled as she tried to attack me again with her chains, but I teleported all over, sucking up even more of the life force of my environment.
Release my soul, and absorb my body's essence from another location. Repeatedly.
This was the ability I had first unlocked during my eight years. But I never fully mastered it, until now.
"Impossible!" Shaina screamed, as I instantly closed the distance and bombarded her with strikes.
"You've defiled your hands on me. We made love, against your teachings of the church. You should have given into despair, you should have-"
I cut her off by landing another blow with a devastating kick, sending her into a concrete column.
I teleported to her location as she held out her hands, chains flying in my direction as I caught them all.
"Seems to me, you're still caught up on that day. Still obsessed with it." I said, as I yanked the chains out of her grip.
Shaina yelled in desperation as she tried to charge me, but I held out my hand and blasted her with a wave of life-energy, sending her back as she crumpled to the ground.
"How can you still walk around being a follower of faith, after everything you've done?" Shaina muttered.
"Because I am mortal." I replied as I walked up to her.
"I am a mortal who has sinned. That is the very essence of being a follower of faith. To fall, but continue to strive for greatness. To repent and learn from your mistakes."
Shaina tried to get to her feet but fell back down on her knees.
"So... I suppose I have lost, despite everything." She said, dejectedly.
I held out my hand, as the life energy I had stored up pooled into my hand, glowing bright white.
"Are you going to kill me, Kanade Asaoka?" Shaina asked.
I closed my hand and dissipated the energy.
Shaina stared at me in shock.
"Why? Is it because of-"
"Because I can tell from the tears on your face that you still have regret." I replied.
Shaina furiously wiped her face.
"Was it all that bad. Kanade. Our night together."
"No. But it was hard to tell, when I wasn't myself."
I knelt down and put my hand on her head, as I took away her fighting energy, and revitalized her wounds.
"I've healed you, but taken away your energy to fight."
"If we could do it again, but you were yourself, would you..."
"No. Sorry, but that's not who I am. I have a destiny to walk with my brothers. A life with you would only cause pain on your end."
Shaina looked down, sadly.
I got to my feet as I peered at the horizon. John was still being pursued by Stella. I needed to get to him. Fury had tasked me to watch over our younger brother.
I looked back at Shaina.
"You'll find a man who loves you for who you are. Eventually. Unfortunately, I'm not that man."
A small smile crept on her face.
"Then I will live my life anew, to convince you otherwise."
I walked away, as I left Shaina to herself.
"Do your best, but I would suggest you try to conceal yourself, unless you want Mogul finding out one of his stronger Acolytes fell in love with a Remnant."
Shaina's face became flustered. "I am not in love with you!"
"That in itself is contradictory to what you just said." I replied, a smile on my face.
"Ohhhhh Johnny!!!" Stella called after me as I hid behind a car, breathing heavily.
"Not good." I muttered, as I stared at my hand. She had shattered my Soul Link Blade with her knives. Those things were no joke. To top that off, my handgun wasn't doing enough damage to her. Even with Decen's shards.
"Found. You." Stella peeked her head over me as I held out my gun and fired repeatedly. The rounds causing her to reel back, as I bolted.
I had to get out of here. Hiding and kiting was not working on her. And a full frontal attack wasn't going to work either.
"Don't run away from me, kiddo." Stella screeched as she leapt in front of me.
I pulled out my hunting knife as I intercepted her slice just in time.
"Good knife. Mine are better." Stella said, as dozens of knives manifested in front of me.
"Soul Link: Paladin Decen 4% - Ultimate Sense!"
I brought my knife up as my brain momentarily went in autopilot, deflecting the knives with superhuman speed.
"Not bad." Stella said, as she continued her onslaught. My arm moving so fast that I could barely see it in the flurry of clashes.
"You're not as meek as I thought you were."
Ultimate Sense wasn't going to last forever. I may have had the ability to Soul Link with Decen, but because Decen was so powerful, the Soul Link could only capture a max 10% of his power. Normal Soul Links could summon at least 50% of their creature's ability. But those rules don't apply to the Paladin of War.
I had a bag of tricks of my own, but it would only be accessory, because it was so damn temporary.
"GO!" I shouted, as I forced my arm to deflect its last knife, forcing it to fly to Stella's face. But Stella simply caught it between her fingers, her face unamused.
My left arm collapsed, as the effects of overusing Ultimate Sense finally took its toll on my muscles.
"Is that... all you got." Stella said, her face monotone.
"Shit!" I yelped, as Stella sent a kick at my abdomen, causing me to fly backwards as I crashed into a car window.
"You are weak. How unfortunate." Stella said, as she put her foot on my chest, forcing me through the windshield as I resisted the urge to throw up.
I looked at my gun and took aim, but Stella flicked a finger, as a knife pierced my wrist. I yelled in pain as it felt like a burning rod was going up my bones.
"Ha... ha..." I tried to control my breathing, but the pain was too much.
I was gonna die.
I don't want to die.
I don't wanna...
Stella's black pupils filled me with terror.
I took deep breaths. If I can't win this fight, stall it. Stall until Deacon or Kanade get to me.
But could they?
He put distance between the Acolytes and I, and I thought we were safe. Until his hand got cut off.
As for Deacon, he was being flung around, completely overwhelmed by that brute.
No. Gotta focus on myself first. Have some faith in my older bros.
"So... I'm guessing all that shit about your brother was a lie, huh." I said.
Stella raised an eyebrow.
"Why do you think that?"
"You're a monster. That's why. All that talk about your bro being killed off. All that talk. I'm not one to say since I don't know much about it, but lying that you've been raped is low as hell. You should be ashamed even if you are a follower to that trash panda Aspect."
Stella straightened her back, as her witchlike form disappeared. Regaining her original teenager form.
"I wasn't lying."
"What? I call bullshit."
"You don't know anything about me. We may be similar age, but we are completely different."
"Well, you were all scaredy cat before. Was that real, huh?"
"No. But my feelings for Deacon... were to some point."
"That's cringe. He's too old for you." I said. A vein popped on Stella's forehead.
"Do you think I chose to be an Acolyte? Do you think we were all born to be this way? I lived my life as an ordinary girl, just like you did. I was human. This world ruined me, and took my brother away. As much as I have let the Corruption transform me, that part of me will never die away."
Stella wiped her eyes as she brought her hand up, more and more knives materializing around her.
"I've seen hell after hell after hell. You don't even know what it's like to suffer, until you get to the point where literally praying to the Prime Aspect of Sin is all you have for liberation. When I became an Acolyte, this was all I had. He was all I had. I knew I could never have my brother back, and I didn't want to live. But I continued to live because my brother would have wanted me to."
Stella let loose the knives as I dove across several cars for cover, but one of them managed to graze my chest.
"So now I live. To deceive. To destroy. To corrupt. But all that matters is I'm alive. All that matters is the one person who loved me the most knows I'm not dead. That's all that matters. Nothing else... everything else is meaningless! So don't you dare... don't you dare..."
Stella continued launching knives at me as I held out my hand.
"Soul Link: Paladin Decen 5% - Quasi Shield!"
A spike cladded shield formed in front of me as I covered myself from the onslaught. But it began to crack as Stella continued throwing knives at me in a frenzy.
"DON'T YOU DARE SAY MY SUFFERING IS A LIE!" Stella screamed.
More knives hit my shield until it shattered, the force knocking me backwards. My gun flew out of my hand as I tried to get to my feet, but collapsed.
"Out of mana. Damn." I wheezed, as Stella walked up to me, her face a murderous rage.
"I hate them all. I hate everything in this world, but you. You, Jonathan Ko, I hate the most. You have your brothers and family with you. You have power and strength that is not Corrupted with Sin. You have all these things, yet you are ungrateful."
My eyes widened.
"What? What do you mean I have all these great things?! My world was torn from me just like yours was. My brothers over there, I didn't even know they existed until last week! The only family I thought I had, is literally comatose and missing half of his fucking body! How am I ungrateful?!"
Stella clenched her fists.
"If you truly were grateful, you wouldn't harbour such resentment to your brothers."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"You hate being weak. You hate that they don't want to save Corey right away. That's right. Your negative emotions and sin. They feed my master. And by extension, they feed us. I know. I know how much resentment you hold in your heart, Fifteenth. Despite all the good in your life. You took it for granted. This is why..."
Stella held out her hand as a wave of force pinned me against a wall, daggers locking me in place by the clothes.
"This is why I hate you the most. You don't deserve them. I want them. I want your brothers. I want them to be my brothers. They won't replace the one I lost, but they can fill the hole in my heart. They can heal the heart of a girl who deserves a family. Not a sadistic killer with no direction in life like you."
I deserved these guys. Didn't I?
I lost my family...
But was Mom and Dad my real family? I was born to Paladin Decen from his consciousness, and I had fourteen brothers. Even when I lost Mom and Dad in that explosion, I still had Ben. When I lost Ben to Turbo, I had Fury and Kanade.
She had no one to fall back on. Everything she had was gone. To the point where she had no choice but to turn to Mogul.
I dodged another knife, but ended up cornering myself between three trailers as I turned around, slowly.
Stella approached me in her teenager form, her face streaming with tears.
"I want a family too. I want someone to love me too." She said, shakily.
My gun. Dammit. I had it knocked out of my hands by Stella. I had no more mana to pull off another Soul Link.
I was boned.
I backed away until I hit the edge of a trailer. Whoever lived in it, was definitely not using it now. I saw a skeleton from inside the trailer, holding a torn up drawing. There were stick figures. A tall stick figure, a shorter stick figure, and a very small one.
"A family..." I muttered.
I turned around and yelped. Stella was inches away from me, her hands in the air.
"I will kill you. I will kill. I hate. I hate you. I hate. Hate... Hate..."
Stella shakily brought her hands up as more daggers materialized in front of me.
I tightened my grip on the trailer. I was done for.
Suddenly, Stella doubled over, as the knives clattered to the ground.
Stella heaved, as she vomited blood on the ground. What the?
Then it hit me. She had already exhausted herself in her fight against Deacon. Deacon had already landed some seriously crazy blows on her, and she was in a horrible condition. She thought she could pursue me, thinking her current state was enough. But it wasn't.
Yet she still almost killed me.
Against my judgement, I slowly held out my hand.
"St- Stella?" I said.
Stella stared at the floor, as her red hair began to turn black, her wild hairstyle straightening until her bangs sat neatly across her forehead.
"I have failed. Mogul is going to kill me. And my brother... he's going to be so sad..." Stella began to sob.
I had no idea what to say. I had to kill her. She was an Acolyte, wasn't she? She was tasked to kill us. To capture us or do something terrible with us. But...
She wasn't any older than me. Yet she had been through so much pain.
I needed to kill her, but my body wasn't listening to me.
"John!" Kanade's voice boomed from the distance.
"I'm right here!" I shouted, as Kanade's footsteps became louder until he spotted me in the space between multiple trailers. He was lugging along Ben's body on his back.
"Thank goodness." Kanade said, with relief, as he jumped down from above, putting distance between Stella and I.
"Please. Don't leave me here. Please, Sixth. I cannot face my master. Please. Please. Please!" Stella begged.
Kanade regarded her with empty eyes, as a breeze caused his cross pendant to dance in the wind. His hair fluttering like an angel.
"If I take you with us, you will become a targeting beacon for more of Mogul's followers and forces to pinpoint us."
My eyes widened. "Wait. Kanade. You can't leave her to Mogul! He's going to find out his Acolyte failed to capture us!"
Kanade turned to me.
"John. Mogul already knows they failed him. As we speak, he has probably amassed some way to take back what was given to them. Their lives are already fated to end this way."
Stella stared at the ground, her eyes wide in shock and terror.
"The last Acolyte I fought, Shaina, knows full well of her fate. She chose to dedicate her life to running from Mogul and living the last few moments to her fullest. Do you have the same resolve, Acolyte?"
Stella was silent.
I got up and grabbed Kanade by the collar of his shirt.
"What the hell are you saying?! Look at her. You don't get it. You don't understand what Stella has been through! How can you just leave her to die like that!"
Kanade regarded me.
"She knew full well of what would happen when she chose to accept Mogul's terms. This is how it is. This is the reality of this world. The sooner you realize it, the better. Deacon should have been the one to teach you this, but he's got his hands full by that Acolyte over there."
An explosion rocked the place. Deacon...
Kanade walked up to me and took out an object. I recognized it immediately. Six shot revolver, with glowing cyan modifications. A SPARTAN battle pistol.
"You know what needs to be done, John."
"No..." I muttered, as I began to tear up. I took the gun and looked at Stella, who had begun grovelling, dragging her face on the ground.
"Please don't kill me. Please don't kill me! Please! Please!"
I held out the barrel of the gun to her head, as I began to tremble violently.
"This is wrong. This is wrong, Kanade. How can you call yourself a follower of faith. How can you call yourself-"
"You can't do it, can you John?" Kanade asked, as I gasped. Kanade took the gun from my hands as he approached Stella, who began heaving.
"Do you think your brother would have wanted you to keep living and torturing yourself like this? Or would you rather visit him in the afterlife?"
Stella stopped sobbing.
"But... my brother... wanted me to keep living... he wanted me to-"
"He would have wanted you to live a happy life. This is not living a happy life. Why do you think he wanted that?"
"To... be happy..." Stella muttered.
"Your service to Mogul. Your endless sin, by tricking deceiving, and killing. Your brother would not want any of this. Now you've dug yourself a hole, and can't get out. Either you die by my hand, or die by Mogul's hand through a painful and excruciating hunt. Which do you choose?"
Stella took a deep breath and stood up, sniffling as she controlled her breathing, and straightened her back.
"I choose my brother. I choose to be with him in death."
I ran forward. "Stella! Don't! You can still live if you come with us!"
Stella stopped me.
"No, John. If I come with you, I will hurt you more. You still have a chance at life with your brothers. But my life ended a long time ago. That was what was supposed to happen."
"Please, don't do this!"
"I never told you my name, have I? This whole time, you've been calling me Stella... I guess I should have told you sooner. Maybe in some other world, we would have been classmates. We would have been friends and talked about schoolwork, skipped class together. Maybe if it wasn't for all this we would have been something other than enemies."
A tear trickled down her cheek as Kanade cocked the gun.
"Jonathan Ko, it was nice to meet someone my age after all this hell. Because of that, I will give you my real name. My name..."
Kanade took aim and pressed the barrel to her head as his face was monotone, empty, yet somewhere deep inside, was regret.
"My name is Myulan. Myulan Crypt."
Kanade squeezed the trigger as I ran forward, impulsively.
"NO!" I screamed as the sound of the gunshot was louder and more traumatizing than anything I had heard in my life. Myulan's body crumpling and falling into my arms.
He sent me flying, as I smashed head first into the pavement, crumpling to the ground.
"You're no fun. I knew I was going to win, but I wanted a glorious battle. I wanted a blood filled duel. With the most vicious of Decen's Remnants. But instead, I get a scrawny man. A little man."
"You're... insane..." I croaked, as the Acolyte glared at me, and began stomping my head over and over again.
"And you are utmost disappointment. This matchup was supposed to be exciting. I spent years for this moment. From the day I was known as Mogul's most vicious, most violent Acolyte, I was destined to battle Decen's most vicious, most violent Remnant. How you've gone soft, Fury!"
The Acolyte stopped stomping on my head and put his hands in his pockets.
"You've gone soft." He said, as he walked the other direction.
"They tell me. The rumours tell me that there existed a Deacon Chow before Fury. One who was weak and powerless. Don't tell me that Deacon has returned and took away my Fury."
"Huh?" I said, as I put my hands on the ground, crushing the cement with my grip.
"You heard me." The Acolyte turned around.
"Fury of the Halakites. You've gone weak. You've gotten so weak that the old Deacon Chow has taken over again. I am the very embodiment of what you should be. Of Fury should have been. Bring him out. Bring Fury out."
I struggled to my feet, as my regeneration had already passively restored the bones in my limbs. The parts of my body that wasn't continuously damaged by the Acolyte.
"You think that's what I stood for?" I asked, my voice dangerously low, containing the anger that was boiling up inside me. I haven't felt this rage in a long long time.
"Yes. That is the very essence of Fury. The rage. The resentment. The urge to burn everything down." The Acolyte shouted, mashing his fists together. His face maniacal.
"We both want to destroy the lives of everyone here. Because that is the very definition of fun. To bring true enjoyment."
The Acolyte brought his hand out.
"Why does a human find something fun. Because it gives them a sense of pleasure. The only way to have something, is to take it away. By that reasoning, the very fundamental way to have fun is to take. And the very primordial form of fun...."
The Acolyte made a fist, his muscles on his forearm bulging.
"Is to take away another's life."
"Hm." I grunted, as I held out my hand and took out my mask, putting it on my face again.
"Seems you have a screw loose, because never once did I choose to do anything because of fun."
The Acolyte paused, as I took a step forward.
"In fact, the way you think of things, the way you perceive this world around you. Your very philosophy of finding fun from other people's destruction, reminds me a lot of someone I hate very much. Someone who broke my bones."
My eyes widened as a massive tornado of Demonfire surrounded me.
"The man who broke a bone six times a day. Six days a week."
The Acolyte's momentary look of fear changed into a corrupted grin.
"Yes. Fury. Come out. I want to fight FURY. Not DEACON. I want him. I want the destroyer. The Wrath of Decen. I want him. GIVE ME FURY!"
The Acolyte screamed in delight as he brought his foot back, and shot forward.
The Acolyte stopped, as an orange line appeared on his chest, exploding in blood as he stumbled back.
"Ack. Very good. This is good. THIS IS GOOD!" The man shouted, as he reeled back and swung at me, but I was already behind him, impaling the Acolyte with four tendrils and sending him into the air.
You are loud. How annoying. I said, as summoned more and more tendrils, impaling him from opposite directions.
"HAHAHA! I want more. I want more, Fury! Give me more!" The Acolyte yelled, as he grabbed my tendrils, completely ignoring the massive holes in his body as he yanked me to him and grabbed me by the throat and slammed me into the ground, creating a huge shockwave.
"Let us fight. Let us... heh?"
I put a hand on his wrist, as I began to heat it up. The flesh turning black and charred.
True Demonfire: Dante's Touch
I unleashed another wave of flames that sent the Acolyte back, as I levitated, hovering back into position.
"You. I knew it. You are now at a completely different level. Come at me. COME. FURY OF THE HALAKITES."
I said nothing, as I zipped in, closing the distance as my tendrils clashed with the Acolyte's fists. Dodging his punches with deadly fluidity and launching strikes and slashes ferociously.
I held out my hands and unleashed two tendrils that impaled the ground where the Acolyte was just standing, as he materialized across the battlefield.
I held out my hands, generating two bursts of flames as I propelled to his location in a fraction of a second, laying down the pressure.
The Acolyte smiled crazily as the two of us began a fist on tendril exchange, materializing and zipping across the entire motel complex, and the skies. Lighting the place a demonic orange.
"FIGHT!" The Acolyte said, as I eyed him murderously, swinging around and latching onto his back and cutting into him with unorthodox angles.
But none of them seemed to work.
The Acolyte grabbed my tendril as my eyes widened in surprise.
"Fight... fight... FIGHT."
The Acolyte closed in and smashed my midsection and began overwhelming me again. The more he fought, the stronger he became.
"True Demonfire! The very flames of the Hellspawn King! But I did tell you."
The Acolyte began bombarding me in the face with explosive punches as my head reeled back.
"I am the perfect counter for your powers. No matter. No matter how powerful you become, I will always win this fight."
Another punch sent me shooting into the ground, as my powers began to wane once more.
The Acolyte landed in front of me.
"It ends... huh?"
I got to my feet and met his punch with my face, as I clenched my teeth and eyed him.
"Kanade ended up fighting Shaina. Even John is fighting someone who is his age. Yet I ended up with you. Some mindless. Simple. Stupid berserker. What kind of insult is this?"
I grabbed the Acolyte's hand and ripped it away from my face.
"I am Fury. The Wrath of Decen. But I am not a berserker. I am not a mindless killer. The day I chose to accept my half of my power, it was to protect the innocence of my beloved Meena Kennedy. Not a single day passed where I wanted to see her smile genuinely. Every day in Blackwater her face was plagued with emptiness. She so desperately wanted to leave that life behind but lacked the power to. Until I became stronger."
I bit down on his fist as the Acolyte pulled away.
"You say to take a life gives you joy. When I took a life, I saw it as a way to make Meena happy. But the more I did it, the more I saw myself becoming the very thing Meena hated. I became her. So do you see. Do you see why you can never live up to Fury's standards? You. Are. Nothing."
I pushed the Acolyte away as he stood before me, motionless.
"You are just a delusional muscle puppet. Desperate for my attention."
A breeze swept past us, as silence ensued.
Suddenly, I heard a snicker. Then a laugh.
The Acolyte threw back his head and laughed as hard as he could.
"YES! Even the verbal lashings have returned. My dearest, most precious RIVAL!" The Acolyte pointed at me.
"You and I will forever be connected. FURY!"
"Heh?!" I stumbled back.
"That's right, my precious, precious, Fury..." The Acolyte said, as he brought his arms in front of his chest, the ground shaking as he began to power up.
"Your contempt. Your power. Even in the face of an unstoppable force. The Deacon Chow who once took your place never would stand in front of an adversary with this level of ferocity. Fearless. Strong. And fighting, to the very end. I have been searching for such a person for the longest time."
The Acolyte pointed to me, his body now glowing with blue flames.
"Fury of Decen, as an oath, you will forever be my rival. A rival to the great Heracles".
We battled once more, our fight stretching across mountains as we both upped our intensity.
"Full Possession: Vessel of Diablos 100% Power" I growled, as my coat disintegrated, my tendrils wrapping around my arms and forming two powerful tonfa blades.
"Do you know. How many millennia I have lived. To fight and conquer? Not once have I met a challenge. For no one was enough to stand against the son of Zeus. When I gained immortality, my life had become nothing but an endless slaughter. Nothing but boredom. Everlasting boredom. Until Mogul himself, challenged the King of the Gods, and defeated him."
Heracles launched a punch as I blocked it but smashed into the side of a mountain.
I assumed my form as I blasted out of the way before Heracles could level the entire landform with his devastating punches.
"The Prime Aspect of Sin freed me, and promised me a battle that would once again reawaken the glory of bloodshed. I accepted the Corruption, for it was all I had to live once more. To live as a warrior. FURY. YOU HAVE REKINDLED MY LOVE FOR BATTLE."
I dodged Heracles' punch and sliced down, catching his chest as the god stumbled back.
I was fighting at full power. There was nothing holding back my destructive Demonfire. I had purposely moved the fight, but I knew for a fact. That this form would not last long.
"Tch." I muttered.
You can use my full power for only five minutes. That is your curse. The curse from your eldest brother, Remnant 1. For slaying me, and delaying my rebirth through Lyra Tetras. The strength you seek comes at a cost. Use it wisely, Remnant 3.
I slid back as I shot forward, meeting Heracles' charge.
"RAAAAH!" I screamed, power overflowing from my body as Heracles roared in defiance, his entire body glowing blue and lighting up the sky in a shower of colours.
"FIGHT! THE GLORY OF BATTLE." Heracles yelled, as he held out his hand, large bolts of lightning arcing from the sky as I zipped across the entire mesa, dodging the projectiles of the storm.
"WHO IS STRONGER? LET US SEE. THE KING OF THE GODS, OR THE KING OF THE HELLSPAWN?!"
"Shut up, fool!" I growled, as I spun around and delivered hundreds of slashes at Heracles' backside.
True Demonfire: Angelbreaker Slash Super Gatling
Heracles spat out blood as he spun around.
"Very good!" As he reached out, but I was already gone, materializing underneath him, and holding out my hand.
True Demonfire: Angelbreaker Blast Ultimate Immolation!
I launched Heracles into the air, and brought my blade back, swinging as hard as I could, but my blade was intercepted by something.
"Wha-?!" I gasped, as the flames cleared, revealing a bronze club.
"You pushed me to use my weapons. You truly are amazing, Fury." Heracles said, as he launched me into the air, smashing me with impossible speed using his bat. I flew into another mountain, levelling it.
I got to my feet, breathing hard. The only way to take down Heracles now was pure melee. The Sharpshooting skill that I had imitated from Meena's style was ineffective on someone who could move faster than my gun blasts. But I wasn't a close range fighter.
This was my weakness.
I was never a fighter. Not once, not even when I had awakened and accepted my powers. I was always one who relied on Diablos' flames and overpowering my enemy. In terms of close range combat, there was Arman and Lucius. In terms of long range combat, there was Sammy and Thomas. And now, Ben.
"This is going to be one annoying battle, huh." I muttered, as I looked in the sky, the figure of Heracles casting a large shadow over me, as he began to close in on me.
"I guess this is the limit of my power." I said, as I felt Diablos' flames begin to leave my body.
Heracles cannot be beaten. Not by me. More stuff on the plate for us to deal with, after what Dad had done.
I knew the lore of the son of Zeus, one of the strongest demigods in existence.
But I also knew the other half of it. How he had begun to fall. How he had began to search for his perfect rival. Why he was so fixated on us.
Because there wasn't a single mortal Heracles couldn't beat. That was what everybody knew him for. Except that wasn't true.
There was a mortal that the famous son of Zeus could not defeat. One who surpassed him in speed.
"That's right." I muttered, as time seemed to slow down, the after effect of the overuse of Diablos' power.
My eyes were filled with the silhouette of Heracles descending down from the heavens, ready to finish me off.
Paladin Decen of Acadia. The mortal who defeated Heracles and shamed him. From that day forward, Heracles wanted to search for father, but because father was not of the Pantheon, or even in that universe for that matter, it was impossible.
So now, he was given the chance to do battle once more.
Because if he couldn't fight Decen again, at least he could settle for what he believed would be the next best thing.
The most vicious and bloodthirsty of them all.
Except he was wrong. I knew full well I couldn't beat him. That was why there were fifteen of us. When one of us couldn't get up, our brothers would be there for me.
"Hey. John." I said, as I turned to my youngest brother, who was hiding behind a tree. His eyes widened as we made eye contact.
"I could use your help."
"Hurry, John! Deacon doesn't have much time!" Kanade shouted at me as we ran towards the sounds of fighting.
But I felt so out of it.
The image of Myulan dying in my arms burnt into my mind. What could have been.
What life would have been if I wasn't born in this timeline. If the Iron Council didn't invade. If I wasn't born a Remnant.
Would I have gone to high school? Would Myulan have been my classmate?
Making friends my age and coming home. Even being scolded by a real mom and dad.
I wouldn't be able to experience that at all.
I stopped running as Kanade turned to me.
"John, what the hell are you doing? We need to hurry and help Deacon-"
"Why..." I muttered.
"Why am I born this way?" I asked, looking at my older brother. "Why can't I live my life like everybody else did?"
Kanade regained his composure and knelt in front of me.
"John. You can't lose sight of what's at stake. I know this is hard. I know what happened with Myulan is horrible. But we need to keep moving forward. You have a family that needs you right now. Deacon needs you. I'll always here for you if you need it. We can always talk about this once we're safe. Okay?"
Kanade put his hand on my head, and I felt a tingle inside me. A warm rush that calmed me down. I knew Kanade had the power to do something like this, but this didn't feel like his powers. It felt... genuine.
I took a deep breath.
Deacon needs us. Needs me.
We continued running to the sounds of fighting, as Kanade turned to me.
"John. I have an idea. But it's going to depend on whether or not you can pull it off."
"What kind of idea do you have?"
"Your power. When Merrow and Sammy studied you, they described it as the ability to link souls, right?"
"Yeah. Sort of."
"What do you mean?"
"It's kind of hard to explain. When I was born, Mom and Dad were avid followers of Paladin Decen. They seemed to know about my powers from the start. They called it the Soul Link. An ability that only a few mages could use. Right now, I'm Soul Linked to Decen's spirit, but I can only draw out like, 10% of his power, max."
Kanade narrowed his eyes, deep in thought.
"Can you soul link with other beings?"
We leapt over a few cars and over the top of buildings. Thanks to my training with Ben, I had gotten a lot more athletic over the years.
"I tried linking with several ghosts before. But I can only do a max of two souls. And if I do that, one Soul Link diminishes in ability."
"Meaning if you soul linked with something else, your connection to Decen will waver..."
I raised an eyebrow.
"Are you saying I soul link with another spirit?"
Kanade looked me in the eye.
"Yes. I want you to Soul Link with Diablos, which is currently in Deacon's body and supplying him with power."
My eyes widened.
"Wha- Diablos?! Like... Sata-"
"No. Do not say that name. But to answer your question, Diablos is not the devil. He is just the King of the Hellspawn in the Underworld. He was slain by our progenitor, and was slain again by Arman. His powers supply Deacon with his flames through his cells. But a portion of Diablos' soul is embedded in Deacon. Right now, Fury can't beat that Acolyte. Not without an extra hand."
I gritted my teeth.
I didn't like initiating Soul Links. It always felt wrong, the dead should rest. I remembered long ago, when I ran into a cemetery and got lost, several monsters tried to kill me. And I was so scared, that I initiated a soul link with one of the ghosts near me. An elderly woman. I managed to fight off the monsters, but the woman became restless. The pain in her eyes and horror as she saw what she had become, a ghost and dead, was. too much for her. Her screams of agony as the priests went and doused her with holy water. It was too much for me.
I knew all about Diablos. Mom used to read stories about Diablos when I was super little. The King of the Underworld, who tried to conquer the upper realm. The sinister being who slaughtered people. Men. Women. Children.
They say the more resentment a soul harbours, the more powerful they become, but the harder it is to control. If it was true that Diablos was slain by Decen once. Then slain by Arman again. Then I could only imagine how much hatred he had for my kind. For the Remnants.
To know Diablos was the source of Deacon's power... what kind of torment did he have to go through everyday?
"There he is!" Kanade shouted, as I watched our older brother hit the ground.
I nearly choked. Deacon was covered in wounds, blood everywhere on his body. His eyes were ferocious, like a cornered animal, but he continued fighting against the Berserker. His face, steadfast.
"How is he... not scared?" I gasped.
"He is." Kanade said, as we hid behind a trench.
"We're all scared. That's what it means to be a warrior, but Deacon knows better than to let his fear take over. He's fighting not just for himself but for us."
Kanade put his hand on my shoulder.
"Are you afraid to link with Diablos? John?"
I pursed my lips, looking the other way.
"He's... the king of all demons, Kanade. Soul Links involve either a consensual agreement or a fight for dominance. I really doubt Diablos is going to let me just walk in with his power."
I looked at Deacon again, as he continued fighting, swinging wildly with the same tendrils as Decen.
For a split second, Deacon's white hair was replaced with a familiar black and magenta. My mind flashed, as Deacon was replaced with Decen. Then with Kanade. Then finally... Ben.
"They're all... warriors." I muttered, as another explosion shook the ground.
Kanade smiled gently. "You're one too, John. I believe in you."
I closed my eyes. I'm shitting my pants. But I have to do this. Because if Deacon is fighting against an impossible opponent, knowing full well he had no chance of winning, what was my excuse?
There was still a chance I could link with Diablos.
I held out my hand, fixated on Deacon, as everything around me became irrelevant. Kanade's voice becoming a mere muffle.
Diablos of the Underworld. The Great King of the Hellspawn. I, Jonathan Ko, implore you to share your power with me by Soul Link.
Everything began to elongate, as I felt myself spiralling into the darkness. The voices of many who were sent to the Underworld screaming at me. This was apparently normal. The few times I initiated soul links, it had always been something similar. A feeling, a rush, akin to the person or being I was linking with.
And Diablos' was terrifying, as I suddenly gained consciousness in a dark room. Lit by torches flickering with blue fires.
The youngest seeks my power. An ancient voice boomed in the darkness, as two torches lit up a large grotesque horned figure.
My eyes widened as I instinctively stumbled back.
LAUGHABLE. Diablos got up from his throne as his footsteps boomed, echoing like mini explosions as he approached me.
I cleared my throat. Taking a deep gulp.
"I need your strength. You lent Deacon your powers, right? Can you do the same for me?"
The one known as Fury can only access my powers through biological means. For I am a part of him. There was no agreement. Because Fury is partly composed of me. You on the other hand...
Diablos swept his hand, as I fell flat on my ass from the wall of black and orange flames.
Have come to my domain, come to my throne, come to my terms, to BARGAIN?
I clenched my fists.
"Yeah. I DO. You're going to give me your power. If a consent isn't gonna happen, then I'll take your powers by force!"
Diablos smiled, his spiked teeth illuminating the room with a sinister aura.
By force you say, but you are mere child. Meaningless words sicken me.
There was practically no way I could beat Diablos in combat. But... Deacon...
I held out my gun and fired bolts of energy at the Hellspawn, but the blasts disintegrated from his aura.
"Soul Link - Palad-" A wave of force slammed into me as I slid backwards.
Diablos laughed, as he approached me and picked me up by the collar of my shirt.
You are immensely stupid. I commemorate your entertainment value, however.
"Dammit..." I muttered, as Diablos regarded me with those darkened pupils.
No. This is not right.
"What?" I choked, as Diablos set me down, and stepped back.
You. I sense a connection between you and Arcel's son.
"Arcel...?" I said.
Diablos grumbled, as the room shook from his demonic, ancient voice.
Do you know what separates gods from mortals, boy?
"Immortality?" I stammered. There was no way I was going to waste this opportunity. If I could keep playing this, and rolling with it. A physical confrontation wasn't going to happen. I knew that much. A verbal consent wasn't happening either. But somehow, Diablos was having a revelation. But I was extremely confused as to what he was talking about.
Diablos held out his clawed hand.
Time. We do not perceive time the same way as mortals do. True gods. Feel the time stream a different way. And you, boy. You have a role to play with the mightiest of my kind.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
You are the strongest. The strongest of your brethren.
The strongest? What was this guy talking about? How in the hell was I the strongest when there was Kanade and Deacon?
Diablos straightened himself.
Represent us well, boy. I accept your terms for the Soul Link. Diablos said, as he knelt in front of me.
I felt my body surge with power as my surroundings melted, Kanade looking at me from above.
"John! Are you alright?" Kanade asked.
"I'm... yeah." I muttered, as I put a hand on my head.
The feeling of Diablos' power was definitely in me now. I felt the flames. Oddly enough, it didn't feel evil, or menacing. It felt absolute. Like nothing could possibly be hotter than the flames of Diablos. There was no need to prove anything, or to feel any form of aggression. Because this was the power of Demonfire. Simply put. Absolute. Indisputable. All powerful.
I closed my fist, as my left arm burst with black and orange flame.
You are the strongest. The strongest of your brethren.
This line still bothered me. How was I the strongest? In time? Was he talking about me in the future? What was I going to turn into? Deacon and Kanade were so amazing, the thought of surpassing either one of them was beyond me. And to know there were a bunch more Remnants out there.
But right now wasn't the time to think about this. Like Kanade said, there's an opportunity to discuss this after this was over. Right now, Deacon needed me.
"Intercept the Acolyte. I'll heal Deacon." Kanade instructed me, as I ran forward and put myself between Deacon and the Acolyte.
"Now or never, Diablos." I said, as I brought my forearm up.
"Soul Link Diablos..."
How much of Diablos' power could I take? I could only take up 10% of Decen's power. Normal Soul Links could take 50%.
Decen was by far stronger than Diablos, but Diablos wasn't to be laughed at either.
The King of the Hellspawn.
The Ruler of the Underworld, this guy wasn't a normal soul creature by any chance.
And what abilities did I get from Diablos? I knew all about Decen's abilities from when Mom and Dad taught me about him. But with Diablos, I didn't know a single thing about this guy other than the basics. Demonfire and being a King.
Things began to slow down as the Acolyte closed in on me. I needed to figure this out now. It was now or never. But I didn't even know what Diablos could do. Or the percentage of power I could call from his Soul Link.
Stop thinking, John. You just have to do it.
Decen killed Diablos easily. Meaning Diablos was weaker than Decen. Meaning I could handle at least 10 percent. But 10 percent of Decen was barely enough to even make Stella flinch. 10 percent of Diablos wouldn't dent this guy.
I needed more power. I needed...
I looked around me, as the drop of water from a nearby broken faucet fell in slow motion.
Come to think of it. Why was everything moving in slow motion?
I looked at my hand, and realized it was emanating with black electricity.
"JOHN. LOOK OUT!" Deacon shouted at me, as I dove out of the way, narrowly missing the Acolyte, who glared at all of us.
"Fury... how could you. How could you do something so cowardly? Relying on your brothers? In our DUEL?!"
I stumbled backward.
Diablos didn't have the power to slow time. That wouldn't make sense. I've never heard of him having that power before. Meaning if time wasn't being slowed...
Was I going faster?
Deacon stood up, as Kanade held out his hand, attempting to sap the life force of everything around him, but nothing happened.
"No way." Kanade muttered, as the Acolyte chuckled.
"Remnant 6. I know of your power. Yes. Hygieia. The Goddess of Health. Consumed by Decen, the Paladin of War. For wherever there is life, there is power. But sadly, you can thank Fury, for his very destructive nature, has destroyed all the wildlife in the radius. Your powers..."
The Acolyte closed in and launched a devastating punch before any of us could react as Kanade coughed up blood, smashing into a nearby boulder.
I stared at Kanade's body in horror, folded in and jammed in the crater with which the impact created.
Did Kanade have superhuman durability? I knew Deacon did. But Kanade seemed like a regular guy. The times he seemed tough and sturdy was when he had a constant stream of life energy to sap away at. But now Deacon and the Acolyte destroyed it all in their clash.
I looked back at the Acolyte, as Deacon bust into action, manifesting his tendrils and fighting the Acolyte in an exchange, but was quickly overpowered. The Acolyte grabbing him by the face and smashing him into the ground.
"It's over, Fury. Your full power is gone. Your foolish brother decided to restore your health but not your energy. It's disappointing it must end this way."
I clenched my fists, sweat running down the sides of my face.
I remembered how he put his hand on my head.
The mental image of Kanade's body jammed in the rock, his bones broken. Possibly dead. And to have his name slandered by this asshole.
Filled me with rage.
"Soul Link: Diablos 45%..."
I grumbled, as my body filled with power. It felt like all my cells were being filled with something, ready to burst, but my anger was keeping me from feeling the pain as I stomped forward, my foot cracking the ground as Deacon stared at me.
"Kaiju Boost." I said, my hands turning into claws as I felt my breath turn to fire. The rage. The anger. The resentment.
This wasn't just mine. Seeing Kanade like this. It was awakening the rage of something else. Someone else.
A rage of being trapped in the Underworld, unable to reach the surface due to the defeat of a mortal. Then to finally gain a body again but to lose once more by the mortal's Remnant.
This was both the rage of mine and Diablos.
Times 30. I said, as I shot forward, and launched a slash square at the Acolyte's chest, ripping it apart as I glared at him.
I can't let the same thing that happened to Kanade happen to Deacon.
I was too weak to help my brothers. But now this ends. I will become the very embodiment of strength.
Just like Fury.
Slicing and dicing was kind of a simple way of putting it.
To be completely honest, it felt like I was going in autopilot. Everything was a blur, as I zipped in and out and around, letting Diablos' power take over my body as I cut into the Acolyte over and over again, shredding his body with Diablos' claws.
When a Soul Link is called, it's not just their powers that a mage manifests.
Their very characteristics change.
That's why it isn't called a Power Link. Or a Skill Link.
A Soul Link binds two beings by their very essence.
At this very moment, I had closed in and evaded every single attack that the Acolyte had sent my way, as I reeled my fist back, my eyes wild as the Acolyte stared at me in disbelief.
"You... there was another Remnant with Diablos' cells?!"
Times 30 was enough to cut into this guy's flesh. But if I needed to drop this dude, I needed to land some major bombs on his head. Pummelling him probably needed more power. I could only hope calling more of Diablos' power wasn't too taxing. I needed more.
"Kaiju Boost x50 - TOWERBREAKER SMASH"
I brought my fist in as it landed square on the Acolyte's face, warping it as the big guy flew backwards, crashing through multiple mountains.
I landed on the ground, but my knees buckled, my body sparking with black electricity, but slowly steaming. I was reaching my limit.
"Sh- Shit..." I muttered, as I almost fell face first until Deacon intercepted and caught me.
I rested my face on Deacon's chest as I tried to catch my breath. Deacon smelled like burnt firewood. Under normal circumstances I would have pushed him away. I hated being touched. But my heart felt like it was being poked at by an iron rusty rod. Kanade. What have I done?
"De... Deacon..." I muttered.
"John." Deacon said, as I looked up at my elder brother. Deacon's face didn't seem as aggressive as it did before. He seemed to... look...
"I didn't think you could do that. You have Heracles on the ropes while I was struggling so hard. Well done, kid."
My face felt wet. I suddenly realized it was from tears.
"H- Huh?" I asked, as I furiously rubbed my eyes.
Deacon helped me to my feet and put his hand on my shoulder.
"I still have enough power to go 80%. If you have any more of that boost, we can take Heracles together. You and me. Just follow my lead and when you see an opening, unload as many bombs as you can. His weakness is his throat, just under his chin. Aim for there, then we'll finish him off together."
I wiped my eyes, looking back at the hole in the crater.
Deacon powered up as he put on his mask, his body emanating with black and orange flames.
"Remember the plan, John. Let's kick this guy's ass."
I sniffled as hard as I could and clenched my fists, assuming my fighting stance.
"Yeah. Let's do it."
Soul Link Diablos 48% - Kaiju Boost x50
My body burst into black electricity and an orange glow, as my hands turned into claws again.
"Ugh. Well. I was anticipating a one on one. But now we have a little Fury on the other side. I hope he serves you well." Heracles grumbled as he punched a boulder into pebbles. Such strength.
"Because I'm going to enjoy pummelling you both to a pulp!" Heracles growled, as all three of us charged.
"YAAAH!!!" I yelled as I closed in to slash at Heracles from behind as Fury engaged him from the front, his tendrils and my claws closing in, but suddenly, Heracles spun around. I leapt into the air as Heracles punched the ground, sending massive boulders into the sky as he leapt from one to another, pursuing me, but not before Fury pushed me out of the way with one of his tendrils.
"John, flank him!" Deacon shouted, as he swooped in and slashed at Heracles with a feint, then landed a three hit combo at his side while I leapt in from above and unloaded a Towerbreaker Smash at the top of his head.
"AMAZING!" Heracles roared, as he brought his bat back and swung as hard as he could. I narrowly dodged it and tried to slash back in counter, but Heracles weaved out of the way and grinned at me, his face inches away from mine, but not before Fury shot inwards and landed a kick square on his face, launching him back.
"You okay?" Fury asked me, as I nodded.
"COME. REMNANTS." Heracles shouted, as he ripped chunks of a cliff face out and hurled them at us at a ridiculous speed. Fury and I blasted forward. Fury's flames and my lightning blasting the boulders into pieces as we bulldozed our way through and engaged Heracles in a two on one again.
"We need to synchronize." Deacon said, as he pushed me out of the way, saving me from getting my head bashed in by Heracles' club.
"Unload a double attack on his chin."
I tried to send more attacks at the Acolyte's way, but none of them were working. None of my attacks were working.
"Too bad, boy. Unlike your older brother, your style is so painfully obvious to read."
Heracles blocked my swipe and tried to club me, but Deacon intercepted and sliced his face, leaving behind a large gash on his forehead.
"FURY." Heracles shouted, as he leapt back, Fury pursuing the Acolyte and exchanging deadly blows at a supersonic speed.
I took a step forward and nearly collapsed. I began heaving as it felt like I wasn't getting enough air.
Was I... at my limit?
You cannot go any further. Mortal. Diablos' voice boomed in my head.
"Wait. No. Diablos, please. I can keep fighting. Please, just a little bit."
If you call on more of my power, the repercussions will be severe. Do you understand this?
I slammed my fist against my forehead.
"Da... Dammit!" I said, as I yanked at my hair.
Was I just holding back Deacon this entire time?
I had manifested Diablos' powers. I had managed to land some solid blows. But that was before Heracles figured out my fighting pattern. I was nothing but a dead weight to Deacon now. I watched as Deacon continued fighting Heracles in a one sided battle. Both landing blows, but Deacon's blows doing less than Heracles' were. I watched as the Acolyte slammed his fist against Deacon's side, bones cracking as Deacon's body flopped, flying into the air.
"Please. Lord Diablos. I need more power. I don't care what the repercussions are."
I knew this was reckless. Obviously. There was a reason why most mages couldn't go past 60% of a soul link. There was always repercussions using too much.
Manifestation of the body. Manifestation of the mind.
In percentages, we would manifest the traits of the creature's soul.
65 percent. I will offer you 65 percent of my power. But you will only have so much in your attacks. I would advise using it wisely. Every attack. Every slash. Every punch.
I brought my foot back as my arms transformed, spikes bursting from my shoulders and back as my teeth turned into fangs.
The rage of the Underworld. The hate and contempt on the Hellspawn. You now carry my burden. Sixty five percent of it.
I glared at Heracles, foam leaking from my mouth as Fury and I made eye contact. His face with a smirk, as Heracles launched a punch at his face, sending him shooting into a nearby landmass.
"Kaiju Boost x3000"
My feet sparked with electricity as I blasted into the air, bringing my claws back, aiming directly at the spot under his chin.
I watched as Deacon emerged from the rocks, his body once again transformed, his face, half burnt away revealing a demonic skull.
Together. Jonathan Ko. It's time to show this Acolyte the terror of war. Through its Remnants.
I won't let you down.
Heracles' eyes widened as my speed had completely overwhelmed him.
To hell with technique.
To hell with it all.
For none of that matters. In the presence of pure. Undisputed power. In the presence of a King. None of it matters.
"CITYBREAKER SLASH" I roared .
Deacon growled, as the two of us landed our respective attacks at Heracles' weak spot. The Acolyte in a moment of indecision, trying to gage out which one of us was the bigger threat. But the truth was, we were both equally dangerous. The borrowed power from Diablos was much more than the power I had displayed before. And Deacon, was saving the majority of his power till the very end.
"How splendid..." Heracles muttered, as his throat exploded in blood, the two of us, Deacon and I, with a maniacal grin on our faces.
The madness of war and bloodshed.
As Remnants of War.
Heracles leaned back forward, as he clutched his throat.
"This isn't over. Not until... not until I savour the glory of this battle!" Heracles roared, as Deacon wrapped me in a hug, blocking a strike of his club with his own body.
"John, got any more in the tank?"
I buckled as my claws began to revert back to normal.
"I'm almost done. This guy isn't gonna fall! What are we gonna do-"
Deacon put his hand on my mouth.
"No more talking. Just do it." He said, as blood leaked from the corners of his mouth. Fury turned to Heracles.
"I'm completely out of power. It's all up to you."
My eyes widened as Fury slumped against me on the boulder that we were on, soaring to the ground thousands of feet below.
"Diablos! How much more?!"
One hit. That includes any power you use in your legs. Any movements. Will be costly.
"Fuck!" I growled, as Heracles brought his hands back, propelling himself our direction, his eyes completely full of bloodlust.
"IT'S TIME TO DIE, REMNANTS!" Heracles screamed at us.
I couldn't use Diablos' powers to close the gap. If I simply let him come to us, I had to use his powers to dodge his attack to land a blow. I couldn't... I couldn't...
"Deacon?" I gasped, as I turned to him.
"Why are you limiting your style to mine? My slash? My smash?"
Deacon grabbed my wrist.
"You've not limited to just me. You have your brothers. All of them."
"What are you-"
Deacon gently moved my hand to my hip, until it rested over a six shot revolver that was given to me by the brother I knew the best.
My eyes widened as the revelation hit me.
I quickly took the gun out and concentrated, all of Diablos' remaining power from the 65% Soul Link entering the weapon. The barrel glowing a blinding orange with black lightning.
"Finish it. For me. And for Ben. Invent a new style, kid."
I took aim at Heracles' weak spot, open just for me, almost inviting me.
"DIE!!!!" Heracles screamed.
I took a deep breath. Remember what Ben taught you. If it's a shot that needs to land, you can't think too much into it. Clear your mind. Do what you need to do.
Kaiju Boost x3000 - CITYBREAKER BLAST
I pressed the trigger as I let loose a massive blast of black and orange energy, the shock blasting Deacon and I back as we flew into the ground, Deacon catching me from behind as the ball of power shot right through Heracles' throat, leaving behind a large hole, the Acolyte staring at me in disbelief as black steam left his body, his eyes almost lightening up with life.
"Ack! Y- You-" Heracles stammered, as his body disintegrated into the explosion. His facial expression changing from disbelief to pure inner peace.
"I see. The one I was searching for. The one who would bestow upon me, and restore my glory of battle, wasn't the Fury. It was you."
Heracles pointed at me, as his entire body disintegrated into a blast mist, a final breath from his body escaping with a message.
"Jonathan Ko. Thank you for freeing me."
YOU DARE ENTER MY MENTAL DOMAIN, CHILD?
I concentrated on the point where the voice was coming from, until I was face to face with the Prime Aspect himself.
"Tell me where Corey Jensen is." I said, keeping myself calm. I was terrified to the bone. But I needed to keep up this lie, just long enough until I got the information I needed. The Acolyte had knocked me into a crater, and I cast my soul out just in time before the damage could enter mine. But due to my body taking near fatal damage, I was stuck in limbo temporarily. If that was the case, I could use this to the most.
DO YOU THINK YOU ARE IN A POSITION TO MAKE DEMANDS WITH ME? AFTER ALL THE DECEIT AND LIES YOU HAVE SPREAD. YOU ARE A FARCE, SIXTHBORN.
I swallowed. Mogul wasn't the type to make demands with. He was absolute power itself. But... if that was the case, I could play by his position.
"You've kept us alive so far, because you're interested in seeing our power. If you want us to play your game, you need to at least give us some guidance. Otherwise we won't be able to play."
NO. I WILL NOT TELL YOU WHERE I HAVE KEPT THE LOVER OF THE SECONDBORN.
BECAUSE THE SECONDBORN HAS NOT UNLOCKED HIS FULL POTENTIAL. OUR CONFRONTATION WILL BE DULL. LIKE AN UNSHARPENED BLADE. WHEN ALL SWORDS OF A WARRIOR ARE SHARPENED LEST ONE, IT WILL STAND OUT. I DO NOT LIKE THAT.
I gritted my teeth.
So getting Corey back wasn't an option. The Acolytes wouldn't speak. Shaina had told me that none of them knew about Mogul's higher motives, meaning they didn't know about Corey's fate.
"Can you promise one thing?" I said.
Mogul regarded me with those demonic red eyes.
"Keep Corey alive. Don't break her. Give Ben time. And when it comes, he will come for her."
Mogul smiled sinisterly.
DO YOU MAKE DEALS WITH THE DEVIL REGULARLY, FOLLOWER OF FAITH? HOW UNLIKE THE HOLIEST OF THE REMNANTS. I WILL KEEP JENSEN ALIVE, BUT YOU WILL FULFILL MY END OF THE DEAL.
Mogul held out his hand faster than I could react and grabbed my throat as I began to choke, kicking the air as I felt myself being strangled. Losing consciousness.
THE ONE TO FIND CORALINE JENSEN SHALL BE THE SECONDBORN. AND ONLY THE SECONDBORN. NO ONE ELSE WILL INTERFERE, OR SHE WILL DIE.
My surroundings began to spiral until I snapped awake.
"Kanade... you bastard..." John muttered.
"What are you-" I asked, before realizing that John was holding my hand. Energy and life force was exiting his body and entering mine, revitalizing my wounds. A device was strapped on my chest. The one that Merrow and Skylar made in case I ever ran into the situation where I couldn't heal myself. It would force my powers to activate even if I was unable to do it consciously.
John slumped on my chest, falling asleep, as Deacon crossed his arms and looked at me, with a smile.
"I didn't think you were capable of smiling, Fury."
"I can smile when I want to."
Something was different with Fury. He looked softer. But I was not one to say.
I looked back at John, who was snoozing all over me. I lifted him into the air as his head bounced on my chest listlessly.
"I had a conversation with Mogul, while my soul was in limbo."
Deacon raised an eyebrow.
"Did you get information on Corey's location?"
"No. But he did strike a deal with me. He will keep Corey alive, until Ben is strong enough to storm the lair on his own."
"On his own?"
I nodded. "The deal was only Ben is allowed to find Corey. Meaning he needs to be strong enough to fend for himself if he is doing a rescue operation."
"Damn. Well, Skye better be crackalacking on our boy then!" A voice appeared from behind us, as Deacon immediately brought his tendrils up, five blades aimed at Sammy's throat.
"Holy shit guys! Do I look that much like a bad guy to you?!"
I laid John on the ground and spun around, grabbing Sammy by the collar.
"You fool! How long have you been standing there?!"
"Uh, pretty much an hour."
"And you were watching us get beaten by that Acolyte?!"
Sammy put his hands up.
"Hey! Just saying, I would have helped if I could. But the fact of the matter is I was still tired from shadow porting all the way here. Fighting Heracles would have used up what little power I had left."
My eye twitched in annoyance as Deacon sighed.
"Well, what about Shaina and Stella then? I didn't see a single shadow projection while John and Kanade were being brutalized."
Sammy scratched his head.
"Well. Kanade and Shaina have history. I didn't wanna get in the way of that. Also come on. I can't hit a schoolgirl. They're so kawaii-"
Deacon walloped Sammy over the head.
"You're so damn useless, Sammy."
Sammy put his hands on his head.
"Ow! Give me a break! I've been trying to reason with Arman this entire time. He still won't come with us!"
The mood went sombre.
"Did Arman say anything?" I asked.
Sammy laughed. "Ah, well, he said his name was no longer Arman Wan. He wants to be known as Samuel Mace. Then something about how he chooses to live with the Cleaners over us. Then I got mad and fought him."
Deacon got up, in surprise. So was I.
Sammy fought Arman. As goofy as this guy was, there was a reason why he was so reliable.
He was the very embodiment of darkness. Each Remnant manifested a special ability akin to Paladin Decen, upon being formed. These abilities came from beings absorbed by Decen or was from Decen himself. Deacon got his powers from Diablos. I got my powers from Hygieia.
Sammy, got his powers from Tsukuyomi, the God of Darkness.
In other words, Sammy had the powers of a god in the palm of his hand. If he wasn't such an idiot all the time, he would have been one of the most destructive beings in the multiverse, and quite possibly even stronger than us. To know that Sammy had been riled up into an actual fight...
"What happened?" Deacon asked, as Sammy's facial expression immediately changed. The smile on his face turned serious.
My eyes widened.
Sammy ran his hand through his hair.
"I was no match for R1 even at 100% power. I kinda saw that coming. I told you guys from the start."
Deacon stared at the ground.
"This is bad. If even Sammy couldn't beat Arman..."
If even Sammy couldn't beat Arman at full power, that meant none of us had a chance to take him down. None of us stood a chance.
I clenched my fist.
"We need to get Arman back. We can only fight Mogul if we're all united."
Sammy shook his head. "You don't get it. Arman's completely accepted his life as Samuel Mace now. He's made friends and family with the Tsuyuki Dorm. He won't give up Rei for anything. Not to mention, his Phoenix Form is stupidly powerful, it's like on a total class on its own."
"He's fallen in love with a girl in the Forbidden Realm. That's not good. As much as we want to get him back, it'll mean abandoning Rei forever. I can see why he wouldn't want that."
"The only way to get through to him is reason. Force is out of the question." Sammy said.
I crossed my arms.
"Well, the first order of business is, we get Ben and John back to Skylar's place. Get Ben repaired. Then figure things out from there."
Sammy nodded as he held out his hand, but not before a voice appeared from the corner of our vision.
"You... this isn't over."
"He's still not dead?" Deacon asked, his voice in surprise, as Heracles regenerated, his eyes, now fully darkened as his body emanated with black electricity.
"Heracles is gone. But I remain. Corruption, hatred, malice. Jonathan Ko freed his spirit, but the body remains. For eternity. Forever."
Deacon took a step forward.
"Dammit. He's even stronger than before. What the hell? I don't believe it."
I assumed my fighting stance, even though it was clear I had nothing left in my reserves.
"I need a source of power. But even so, we used everything we had to fight this Acolyte. And it wasn't enough. What should we-"
Sammy put his hand in front of me, cutting me off.
"I'll take it from here."
I looked at Deacon, who reluctantly backed off.
Sammy smiled at us.
"Come on. You guys really didn't think I had enough power to make another portal so soon right? I gotta sleep. I might as well use the remaining 15% on this jackass."
"You. The Fourthborn. You shall feed my hatred and malice. You shall-"
Sammy looked at the Acolyte, his face expressionless, as he lifted up a finger. Dozens of chains appeared from the shadows all around us and began wrapping themselves around the Acolyte, who began to resist.
"What... what is this. Impossible. These chains are nothing. I shall break."
"You can't." Sammy said, as he calmly walked up to the Acolyte with his hands in his pockets.
"My chains can't be broken by the likes of you."
A bead of sweat rolled down the side of my face. When Sammy was serious... he was a completely different person.
And above all else...
"I was watching, you know. I watched you beat up my brothers from afar. Not once did I hear an apology. That's pretty scummy, you know."
Sammy's eyes flashed magenta as the chains shot into the air, lifting the Acolyte skyward.
Sammy also flew into the air until he was face to face with the struggling Acolyte.
"You said you did not possess the power to defeat me! You didn't interfere! You bluff, Fourth! You... you..."
Sammy eyed the Acolyte, shutting him up, his face murderous from the shadows, his eyes glowing a fierce magenta.
Suddenly, hundreds upon thousands of black swords manifested around the two, as Sammy tilted his head, his face, sinister.
"Well. I do remember saying that." Sammy said, as the blades continued forming until the entire sky was full of the black projections.
Sammy held up his hand, a maniacal smile on his face as the Acolyte's eyes widened in terror.
"No. Impossible. This... this is... You said you couldn't beat me! You said that!"
Sammy gestured forward, as the thousands of blades flew in and impaled the Acolyte from every direction imaginable.
The Acolyte exploded in a massive starburst of red as Sammy held out his hand, the essence of the Acolyte flying into it like a black hole.
Deacon and I stared at Sammy in shock as Sammy calmly landed on the ground in front of us.
Single handedly overwhelmed an even stronger variant of Heracles.
If even Sammy couldn't beat Arman, what chance did we have?
"Alright!" Sammy said, as he put his hands behind the back of his head.
"I guess that's that. Let's hit up a hotel or something boys. I need something to eat. I'm outta power now."
Deacon closed his mouth, which was gaping open.
"I... er... yeah. Sure. Let's find a place to camp for the night. Then we're heading home."
That night, we camped out in an abandoned hotel, switching location. Now with Sammy in our team, we didn't need to worry about going too far.
As for Sammy, he and John made quite the introduction.
"Whoa! You seriously killed that Acolyte on your own? That's so badass!" John said.
"Yeah." Sammy replied, as he put on his hoodie. "But when I use a certain amount of power, I get major stomach cramps and a bellyache. I just unloaded a huge shit while you were still sleeping."
John's face paled. "Heeeeh...."
Sammy plopped on the sofa and rested his feet on the table.
"If only the TV still worked. Sucks."
Deacon sat next to Sammy.
"How are the others doing?"
Sammy leaned back.
"Well. Merrow and Michael are still trying to locate those two Remnant Monk Brothers. You know? The Kung Fu guys. Lucius went back to Corinth with Sophia to handle some politics and stuff."
"Thomas landed a contract job. Somehow."
"Congrats to him. After everything he went through in his undergrad. Did Meena get my letters?" Deacon asked.
"Yeah. She wants to see John. Super giddy about it. I guess it's that time, you know. She said she couldn't wait to get her hands on a baby Deacon."
Deacon's face turned red in embarrassment. "Ah. I... see..."
I laughed. "Meena sure has changed. I would never imagined The Organization's most brutal and ruthless killer to completely melt upon seeing kids."
Sammy looked at Ben.
"Second eldest huh. He might end up becoming quite the monster."
"Do you think he could surpass you?" Deacon asked.
"Probably not, unfortunately." Sammy chuckled. "Being strong is boring."
A few minutes of silence ensued, as we sat together on the sofa, John fast asleep in the other room.
"What do we do? Once we have Skylar work on Ben?" I asked.
Sammy inspected his hand.
"I'm going back to talk to Arman."
Deacon raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure? You said you lost to him last time."
"I lost because his girlfriend, Rei, was in the way. I couldn't go beyond 100%. I think 150% of Tsukuyomi's Power should be enough to take him down. But I'll need help. Sorry to ask you this, Kanade. But I was wondering if you could tag along. I might need someone who can put a bunch of students to sleep if a fight breaks out."
I pursed my lips.
"Fighting Arman should be the last thing we want to do. He's our brother after all. But I can help, sure."
Sammy turned to us.
"I'll do my best to avoid a fight. But I got a chip on my shoulder from losing to big bro like that. I'll also need Thomas's telekinesis to avoid outward damage."
Deacon's mouth twitched. Sammy yelped. Here comes another scolding.
Suddenly Deacon's mouth twisted into a smile. Then he began to shake, the shake turning into a laugh.
"Heh?" Sammy and I tilted our heads in confusion.
"Uh, dude. Kanade, is Deacon, the mighty Fury, the Wrath of Decen, laughing?"
"Y- Yes, he is?" I stammered.
Deacon put his hand on his forehead.
"You two sound like you're about to go to war. In a high school! I'm so sorry. I shouldn't be laughing. It's just, the thought of you two plotting and planning like this in a place like a school is just too funny."
Deacon really had changed.
Sammy scratched his head.
"What the hell did you do to our Fury, Kanade?"
I looked at the door, John shifting in his sheets and mumbling something about video games.
"I don't think I can take the credit for this one, Sammy."